Time Out says
A much-anticipated follow-up to the smash hit Taiwanese street-food joint.
Kudos to Bao. It would have been so easy, given the queue-rage popularity of the original, for the owners to simply head out back, clone it, then drop it surreptitiously into place in Fitzrovia, for this, its second branch. But instead, they have given us not a remake, but a sequel.
Don’t panic. The key bits are all still here: cute crockery, a minimalist aesthetic and a menu with bao (Taiwanese steamed buns, in case you’ve just splatted down from Mars) at its heart. Many of the best-loved fillings are still available: classic pork (excellent), lamb (polarising), and my personal favourite, confit pork (those crispy onions! That hot sauce!). There’s also a good newbie, ‘cod black’, starring a fillet with a sinister-looking, ebony-hued batter (they make it with squid ink and Taiwanese beer).
But shall I let you in on a secret? The best bits aren’t actually the bao. They’re everything but the bao. (Is that a song? It really feels like it should be). We’re talking xiao chi (‘small eats’), ‘rice bowls’ (new for this site) and sides. If you’re a meat-lover, go for the full-flavoured beef cheek nuggets and the not-small-at-all chicken chop with its spiced, deep-fried crumb coating (it also comes with a glistening whole egg yolk). But the moreish, comforting – and vegan – ‘mapo’ aubergine, served over sticky rice with a zingy salsa verde, is equally kick-ass.
For something lighter, try the raw langoustines – they’re tiny but gorgeous, shimmering in their delicate nakedness on a speckled plate, with a puddle of mellow, umami-tastic aged soy. I also loved the XO sweetcorn, a dinky pot of sweet, chargrilled kernels with just enough heat. Not every dish was perfect (the octopus was uninspiring, as were the duck hearts), but it’s not a bad innings.
The glass-sided main room is larger and airier than Soho, and this time there’s just one counter, in the shape du jour: horseshoe. It may not have the poky charm of the original, but it’s great for people-watching. On my Monday lunchtime visit, I clocked two leading restaurant PRs (not Bao’s) and (separately) a Michelin-starred chef on his day off. There are more seats at a kitchen counter in the basement, but it’s dark down there: save ’em for dinner.
But the best thing this spin-off shares with the original? Value for money. If you pop in for a light bite and order a chicken chop, classic bao and mapo aubergine to share, it comes to £13.50. Between two. Who’s in the queue? I am.
BAO is inspired by the street food markets and Xiao Chi houses in Taiwan. The restaurant specialises in ‘xiao chi’ small snacks and ‘bao’ steamed milked buns, each individually made to a secret recipe that has taken years to develop and perfect.
BAO Fitzrovia is a townhouse split over three floors and features an expanded yet familiar menu, specialising in Ping Paan platters, larger sharing dishes, and handmade baos, served from an expansive open kitchen on the lower ground floor which offers counter dining. All the baos are steamed in the bakery on the first floor.
The ground floor houses large glass windows flooding the space with natural light, and a U-shaped wooden dining bar, where the full menu is available alongside cocktails, wine, and an enviable list of sake and whiskies.
31 Windmill Street
|Transport:||Tube: Goodge Street|
|Price:||Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £65.|
|Do you own this business?|
Users say (17)
Average User Rating
4.7 / 5
- 5 star:13
- 4 star:1
- 3 star:2
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:0
Probably the best Bao's in London. I think I've tried most of those on the menu and they are outstanding.
The cocktails are also yummy.
It's an overall amazing experience.
I am a fan of this place! As soon as you walk in, you'll get seated at the bar type of setting. The service was fast and attentive. I like this location better than the Soho just because they have more space and no need to wait in the queue mostly.
Let's talk about food! i absolutely love 90% of the items on the menu. We had the prawn dishes (heads came separately, must eat them), all the baos (block cod, pork and duck), fried chicken, diced up octopus, and beef with bone marrow on rice. I think the fried chicken stood out the most just because it was just so crunchy and delicious. Of course, you have to order the baos/buns. You could skip off the diced octopus and you won't even notice, that was my least fav dish I think. I love polpo aka octopus all the time, but somehow I don't think their version didn't stand out.
Just as good as the Soho branch, but with even more dishes to try. The bao are great, but as before it's the small plates I would go back for. There wasn't a disappointing choice, and the drinks menu has plenty to get excited about too. I didn't even have to queue on the occasion I went!
with a soy cured egg yolk and pickled cabbage as a side were outstanding. Love this restaurant and how they take me on a trip to Taiwan's streets by way of London.