I heard about Bao just after it opened in March, and I was absolutely beside myself with excitement. This was a) because I LOVE buns (insert own pun here, don’t worry, I’ve got loads coming your way…) and b) because it was all shiny and had just opened I convinced myself I was super cool because I knew about it. I was JUST ABOUT to trot off to Soho to bury my face in the buns (*pun klaxon*) when it was reviewed in three newspapers over the course of one weekend. When I’d recovered from my epic sulk I decided to leave it for a while to visit, as the queue was bound to be stratospheric and I didn’t want that to mar my first experience.
The other day I decided the time was ripe, and, along with Sel, made my way to Lexington Street for some bun action.
We did still have to queue, but it was a very civilised queue on the opposite side of the road (presumably to stop queuers pressing their faces against the windows and dribbling). The good news is that the restaurant will bring drinks outside for you if you so wish, or if you don’t there’s a pub opposite called the John Snow (*GoT high five*) who do drinks in plastic glasses so you can queue and drink at the same time.
We queued for about half an hour and were then led into the teeny tiny restaurant and handed our menus.
We didn’t want to miss out, so we ordered all of the buns straight away (yeah, so what?). I’m going to just come out with it (save your reading the rest of this post if you’re short on time) and tell you that they were all absolutely freaking amazing. The softest, pillowiest, fluffiest buns (*pun klaxon*) stuffed with perfectly cooked, tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat, fresh veggies and tasty sauces. Particular fave for me was the confit pork bao. The pork was so creamy and tasty and the dried shallots added a crunch.
The lamb was one of Sel’s favourites; the meat just fell apart as soon as you looked at it and it came with a really fresh, chilli sauce which cut through the rich meat perfectly.
The classic is another one you should definitely try (unless you’re allergic to peanuts).
Both of us liked the daikon bao least, though it was by no means a bad choice, just not quite as full of flavour as the others. To be honest, if you’re veggie you should probably avoid this place which is a bit of a shame as I bet they could do amazing things, particularly with fish, if they put their mind to it.
For sides we had the sweet potato chips, chicken wings, pig blood cake (I KNOW BUT IT WAS DELICIOUS I HATE MYSELF FOR LIKING IT SO MUCH), beef cap and scallops. These were all nice, though I have to say that if I went again (and I will be, oh God I will be) I’d concentrate on the buns (*pun klaxon*) and chill out on the sides. The chicken wings were very crunchy, bit on the small side and came with hot sauce. Lovely, but tbh you can get nice chicken wings in plenty of other places. The scallop didn’t really do it for me and I think was the only thing I found really disappointing; the garlic overwhelming the delicate taste of the seafood. Again, sweet potato chips were lovely but nothing you can’t get elsewhere.
Stand out sides were the pigs blood cake (STOP JUDGING ME) and the beef cap. The blood cake (I WISH they’d call it something else) was quite delicately flavoured and reminiscent of sausage. It came with a fermented egg yolk on top and when you had a mouthful, it was symphonic (I’m feeling pretty poetic today); so rich and creamy and satisfying. If you’re not squeamish – or even if you are – please give this a go; I’m glad I did.
^ Argh! Just look at it!!
The beef cap was just perfect – just seared on the edge and with a delicate sauce it was a breath of fresh air in a menu full of big, punchy flavours.
For pudding we had the horlicks ice cream bao which was nice (the ice cream tasted exactly like horlicks, which I love, because apparently I’m 95 years old) but the bun was a bit dense and sweet and to be honest I’d probably give this a miss next time as there’s so many other nice buns (*pun klaxon*) on the menu.
BUNderful (*final pun klaxon*).