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An ultra-on-trend bao joint with big portions at little prices.
Anyone with a social media account knows what a bao is by now: these fluffy white pseudo-sandwiches occupy more collective screen space than the aubergine emoji. The tipping point came last spring when street food trader Bao opened a dedicated restaurant in Soho and created the sort of queue you’d associate with Alton Towers.
Twelve months on, Taiwanese snacks are now a full-on London food trend, and first to the punch in south-east London is Mr Bao, a pocket-sized restaurant from one of the owners of Miss Tapas, which serves better-than-solid Spanish food on nearby Choumert Road. It’s not just the food that’s on-trend – between the naked bulbs and functional decor, this looks exactly how you’d expect a buzz-surfing restaurant in a fast-gentrifying area to look. It’s becoming a tired aesthetic, but souvenirs from the Far East and an Asian-only beer policy add character.
But how about them buns? The first thing to note is their size – they’re a good 50 percent bigger than you’d find in town, yet are similarly priced around the £4 mark. There are five to try, plus a selection of sides and gooey bao s’more for dessert. They even do brunch. Fillings focus on pan-Asian flavours: shiitake mushrooms with teriyaki and fried chicken with wasabi mayo and kimchi. Options like slow-cooked lamb with mint or prawn with guacamole reveal international influence. I tried the whole lot and found not a dud among them; every single ingredient – from zingy pickled bits to punchy dressings – makes its presence felt, while the steamed milk buns are soft and light, just the way London likes them.
Service, if anything, is a touch over-efficient, which doesn’t help the hurry-hurry vibe of what’s clearly intended as a high-turnover operation. And while Peckhamites may feel that queueing for their dinner sets a dangerous precedent, thankfully there’s the option to put your name down and go for a pint while you wait.
Offering a slice of Soho in SE15, Mr Bao delivers great value, modish Taiwanese cuisine and – like it or not – the slightly stifling buzz that comes with it.
Founder Frank’s legacy of up-market street food remains the talk of the town after 3 years of opening. The electric atmosphere sits true with Taiwan’s open-minded culture creating a space that is warm, romantic and vibrant.
The menu is split between a range of sharing plates and an array of buns to be devoured in a tapas-style so sensory you’ll be distracting your friends to get the last dumpling. Our all-stars are a 24 hour marinated fried chicken with ginger, spring onion and secret spices paralleled by the legendary classic pork belly bao smothered in roasted peanuts.
We’re working hard to assure our meat free alternatives and vegan options exceed expectations to make you feel satisfied and thinking “how is tofu this tasty?”.
From the signature lychee daiquiri to our own barrel-aged plum wine negroni, the cocktail menu is designed to get those shoulders relaxed and lips smacking.
Get your cameras ready because on the weekends we put on a bottomless brunch to shout about, behemoth sized plates such as the Full Taiwanese and Bao Benedict match-made with cocktails of Zenzi Lychee and Feng Mango.
So whether you're popping in with a date, a mate, the kids or even the whole crew. Our team's got you covered with a smile and experience you won’t forget.