Bao London Review

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Photo Apr 27, 5 30 54 PM

The embodiment of a classic Soho fad-eatery, with its cramped quarters, no reservation policy and a line that would curve around the block if it were a corner store, Bao doesn’t do many things, but what it does, it does it well!

Open for less than a month, it’s made appearances on Instagram over and over again (the best way to make it on a culinary wish-list these days) with rave reviews of its fluffy buns, so we paid a visit to see what all the hype was about!

Arriving at 5.26pm on a Monday evening for its 5.30pm opening, we were first in line (Woohoo!) and the time the doors actually opened 5 minutes past advertised, the queue was about 6 parties strong. We were ushered in first, the door closing behind us and were shown to our seats, with the menu explained (Drinks on this sheet, food on that) and were swiftly greeted by a chirpy server who wanted to know if we’d like anything to drink.

Oooo, good service. 

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Over the course of the meal, which lasted say, 45 minutes maybe, we could see the crowd gathering outside, and had the meal not been satisfying, the experience itself of being in someplace so coveted maaaay have just given me the slightest hint on schadenfruede’s comforting warmth. I mean, if there’s a line, there has to be something to love, right?

Well, was there?

Let me just say from the get go that if you’re looking to tuck into a burger-sized bao, you’re going to be disappointed. The servings are dim-sum sized but with everything from the glasses to the cutlery being so much smaller than average, in proportion, the dishes may seem deceivingly large in photos so it’s best to manage your expectations from here! It’s a plus point for those who want a varied mix, but big eaters may want to bear that in mind.

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A glass of their peanut milk in comparison to my fist. 

Size aside, on to the food!

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These were the pork trotters, and to me, were the star of the night! The green sauce on the right was some amazing garlicky dip (He says it’s ginger-y), that was light but delicious and coupled with the batter and delicious fatty pork, was an amazing beginning to the meal!

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When we spoke to the staff, we found out that hours of work went into preparation, with the pork being marinated in wine beforehand, cooked separately, then put together in a deep fried nugget of flavour, gooey-ness, and sheer delish!

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When I took a bite into the pork confit bao, the first thing I noticed was how soft and fluffy the bao was. It was light and wasn’t soggy, which is definitely a plus point! Flavour wise, it was a 7/10 with a distinct taste of something missing, but I don’t know what!

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Their lamb bao was a 8.5/10 for me, and lamb cutlet lovers are gonna love this! Burgers should come in this form rather than mushed up in a patty because when shredded into bits and topped with some mint-like sauce, it’s really such a glorious mix in your mouth. Open-mouthed smile 

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Their scallop was.. good, but it was scallop, yknow! The black bean sauce was alright, and paired well enough with it and the flesh was firm and roe was creamy, but didn’t scream anything to me!

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Coated sparingly with hot sauce for a little kick, and breaded incredibly well – crispy, but not oily – the chicken was delicious, and got me craving for the ones back in Malaysia. Taste-wise, it compares well enough to the MSG-laden street food you can find in Camden, but with no sickly feeling after and it definitely wasn’t too salty!

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I found their guinea fowl with rice pretty meh, but possibly due to an inexperienced palate, as I haven’t had any experience with guinea fowl before so maybe worth trying for trying sake? It was like.. a softer version of chicken (wasn’t really my cup of tea), and flavour-wise, was alright. I loved the yolk, but for about 6 pounds, this dish isn’t enough to bring me back for another try!

Don’t forget, it’s really tiny as well!

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But this, oh this, is their Fried Bao with Horlicks ice-cream! For starters, Horlicks anything is amazing but coupled with FRIED bread, oh my gosh, it’s elevated to another level! Open-mouthed smile I loved it and because they put an entire scoop between the bun, there’s such a generous mouthful of icecream that you get in every bite.

All in all, it was a pleasant experience! For a small shop, we didn’t feel rushed or cramped and service was pleasant. The bill went up to just under 40 pounds for all that we ordered.

Bao is basically comfort food, but it’s quality comfort food and if you’re looking for deep-fried and not greasy, flavourful but not MSG-filled, or if you’re just a fan of buns, then you’ll see why this place is an absolute hit! If you don’t mind manually dabbing oil off your chicken cutlet, then there are plenty of other, cheaper places to eat at.


Annnnd, back to hitting the books! Who me?
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