A taste of adventure at brilliant Bao

Visit to restaurant inspired by the food culture of Taiwan lingers long in the memory

Thursday, 17th February — By Tom Moggach

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Fun and friendly – Bao Fitzrovia

SMALL details reveal the obsessive brilliance behind Bao – a small group of restaurants inspired by the food culture of Taiwan.

Menus are intricately illustrated; new staff spend weeks learning the history and precise composition of each dish.

Up on a shelf, we spot a pile of Bao T-shirts carefully arranged so that the folds merge to display their logo.

This ethos may sound a little stifling but in fact the opposite is true – the best bit about Bao is that you’re guaranteed to have fun.

The business started with pop-ups and a market stall. Now there are five Bao restaurants, a bakery and an online supermarket selling meal kits, ceramics, sake, sauces and more.

Bao Fitzrovia is tucked away behind Goodge Street tube station on the corner of Windmill Street.

The aesthetic is pared back and simple: white walls and a horseshoe wooden counter, with some extra seats in the basement downstairs.

Book ahead if you can – this place gets busy. You order by ticking a small paper menu. Staff are super friendly and lightning fast.

Bao buns are the signature dish: soft pillows of sweet, steamed dough from Taiwan, with fillings such as beef shortrib, daikon radish cake, black cod or confit pork.

There is a range of snacks, such as deep-fried crispy noodles, and what they call “Dai Chi Middle Plates”: larger dishes with intrepid combinations such a bowl of Dorset cockles with braised cucumber.

Our meal was stunning. We shared a dish of “Salt & Pepper Fried Cheese”: lozenges of gooey cheese slathered in breadcrumbs spiked with pepper and chilli.

There was a plate of tofu blitzed with fresh coriander and flakes of flatbread for added crunch; divine nuggets of slow-cooked beef cheek to dip in their burnt chilli sauce.

Bone marrow rice is a famous dish in this branch: the rice arrives with cubes of marrow and a glistening egg yolk wobbling on top. You stir it all together with chopsticks to create a heavenly, unctuous mess.

There are two puddings on the list. First, a scoop of Horlicks ice cream served in a bao bun; and a wrap combining peanut ice cream and coriander – both divine.

They mix cocktails and serve a succinct selection of wines, sakes and whiskey. But it’s the non-alcoholic drinks that really catch the eye.

There’s a milk foam tea, peanut milk, seasonal sodas or concoctions such as a Yakult float, made with fermented pineapple soda and Yakult foam.

If you’re new to Bao, you will also find a new all-day branch in King’s Cross with a sideline in cakes and other baked goods – also available to take away.

The original Bao restaurant is over in Soho, which has scooped a Michelin award and also does a £15 set menu.

Bao offers adventurous eating, without the shadow of a doubt. A mouthful here lingers long in the memory.

Bao Fitzrovia
31 Windmill Street, W1T
@bao_london
www.baolondon.com

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