Restaurant Review: Bao, London, England

To sum up this post before I even get started, I loved Bao! So much that I returned twice on a four day visit to London! That is saying a lot, and I recommend putting Bao on your London restaurant shortlist!!

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Beautiful London.

Dan and I spent a long weekend in London earlier this year and before visiting, I, as always, scoured the internet to find the best place to have our eight precious meals in London!  Which, if you know London, was extremely difficult, as London is one of the best cities in the world for fabulous food. Somewhat on a whim, Bao was in an article that I read and I decided to make a reservation at Bao’s Fitzrovia location on a Friday night. This was probably the best decision I made the entire trip.

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Bao Fitzrovia.

Bao is a Taiwanese restaurant specializing in baos, or a type of steamed bun, which are soft, fluffy, and a tiny bit sweet. Bao buns are often stuffed with a savory filling but you can also get sweet bao buns. Prior to my dinner at Bao, I was not terribly familiar with bao buns, but Dan and I now seek them out whenever we can! Side note – we are actually went to a bao restarant in NYC last week to get our fix!

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A bao bun.

Bao has two locations in London – Fitzrovia and Soho. Both are quite close in proximity given the size of London but you can only make reservations in the Fitzrovia location. We ended up running about 10 minute late (due to getting lost…) but we called Bao and they held our reservation. Upon arrival, we realized that the restaurant is tiny; the main floor with just a bar and a basement with another bar and a few tables. We were seated downstairs overlooking the kitchen, which is always our favorite place to sit!

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The upstairs bao bar.

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Seats overlooking the kitchen.

Upon being seated, we were handed a paper menu and a pencial to check the dishes that we wanted. As you can see, in addition to bao buns, Bao serves several other dishes, and we really wanted to try them all! We ended up ordering several of the Xiaz Chi and some bao buns.

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The menu.

Dishes at Bao come out as they are ready, and your waiter really decides when to put what in. Our meal started with the XO Sweetcorn with Spiced Beef Butter, which turned out to be my least favorite dish of the night. Don’t worry, the evening quickly turned around! The corn was sweet and tasty and the beef butter was an interesting pairing, but I just do not like corn that much. Lesson learned.

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Next came the Pork Bakkwa with Fermented Chili Dip. Pork Bakkwa was almost like a type of pork jerky done in a sweet sauce. This dish was totally delicious and the Chili Dip cut the sweetness of the pork perfectly. I would absolutely order this again.

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Pork Bakkwa.

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That sauce – yum!!

We also ordered the Beef Cheek and Tendon Nuggets served with a mustard. This dish reminded me of a type of nugget that a child would eat, except done with adult contents. The mustard was a great accompanyment. 

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Beef cheek and tendon nuggets.

 

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These nuggets were photographing very well.

We next moved onto the main attraction, the bao buns! Both of our first bao was the Classic Pork Bao, and it was outstanding! The bao buns at Bao are the perfect mixture of sweet and savory, with the ideal level of puffiness. The pork was also delicious and topped with a crunchy peanut (I believe?) topping. This was so good that I ended up ordering a second! #noshame

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The Classic Bao.

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Better picture of the actual bao bun!

In addition to the Classic Bao, we also ordered the Confit Pork Bao, which was done with pork belly, a sweet sauce, and a crunchy slaw. Not surprisingly, this bao was also amazing. The pork belly was tender and soft and the crunchy slaw gave it a good bite. Definitely recommened.

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Pork belly Bao.

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Close up.

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Side photo.

And, for purposes of full disclosure, on our second trip to Bao, we tried the shortrib bao, which was paired with a spicy mayonaise sauce. I definitely preferred the pork baos, but the beef short rib was an excellent runner-up!

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Beef shortrib bao.

And finally, to accompany our bao buns (as if we needed more food), we ordered the Fried Chicken Chop with a Soy Cooked Egg. And woah, was this ever amazing!! At the risk of sounding really crazy, this reminded me so much of Chick-fil-a and it was absolutely amazing. The egg and sauce were a great mixture with the crisp chicken and the chicken was perfectly cooked. I ordered this dish BOTH times that I visited Bao, and I will absolutely order it again!!

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Chicken chop with a soy cooked egg!

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YUM.

To be clear, Dan and I split everything that we ordered and one of the baos was ordered on a second visit! However, since everything was so so terribly delicious, we also split the Peanut Ice Cream Roon Bing, Coriander. This turned out to be a large spring roll – esque thing filled with ice cream and topped with peanuts! It was really good and definitely shareable. However, in going back, I would focus more on the savory and less on the dessert!

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Peanut Ice Cream Roon Bing, Coriander

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The inside – so much peanut!

In addition to the amazing food, it is also worth noting that Bao serves a few creative cocktails, as well as beer and wine. We tried our fair share over our two visits…

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The Taro White Russian was probably my favorite. Maybe just because it was purple.

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Taro White Russian.

Dan’s was definitely the Sweet Potato Sour – a take on the Peruvian Pisco Sour! Seriously, he raved about this drink!

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Sweet Potato Sour.

Dan also tried the Soy Old Fashioned, and I tried the Strawberry and Tomato Sake, which, while completely delicious, is quite strong and a real shock at lunch…

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Soy Old Fashioned.

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Strawberry and Tomato Sake.

In sum, our two visits to Bao Fitzrovia were totally amazing. I loved everything that we ordered and would recommend this restaurant to almost anyone!

STEAL OUR TRIP

Bao Fitzrovia: 31 Windmill St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2JN, UK. Open Monday – Friday 12:00 – 15:00 and 17:50 – 22:00 and Saturday 12:00 – 22:00.  Closed Sunday. Takes a limited number of reservations, which can be made here.  Walk ins welcome, but there will likely be a wait.

Bao Soho: 53 Lexington St, Carnaby, London W1F 9AS, UK. Open Monday – Friday 12:00 – 15:00 and 17:50 – 22:00 and Saturday 12:00 – 22:00. No reservations.

ON A BUDGET

Bao’s individual dishes are actually reasonably priced, starting at £4,50. Even the most inexpensive dishes are substantial and you certainly do not need to order as much as we did (we were really hungry after a long day of walking and sightseeing!). You can also cut costs by skipping the cocktails!

Also, if you are a foodie on a budget, Bao Fitzrovia does a lunch special of five mini baos with a mini Coca-cola or Tea for £16,00. This allows you to try all of the baos and the “mini” sized baos were not that mini. I could not have finished a set on my own!

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