[London] Awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand from consecutive years, BAO Soho is inspired by the street food markets and xiao chi (“small eats”) houses in Taiwan.
While BAO Soho is their most famous outlets, there are other BAOs located at Borough Market, Kings Cross, Fitzrovia, and Shoreditch – each with slightly varying features.
With humble beginnings at Netil Market, it opened in Soho at Lexington in 2015.
Since then, it is serving baos, xiao chi, and innovative takes on Taiwanese classic like pigs’ blood cake with soy cured egg yolk or battered sweet potato with pickled plum ketchup.
Take note that the Soho outlet is very popular, and the seats can be rather cramped within – not recommended if you feel claustrophobic easily. (Other branches are more spacious.)
All Baos are made fresh in-house using wheat flour and a tang zhong starter.
Choose from Classic (£5.50) (braised pork, peanut butter, fermented greens, coriander); Confit (£5.50 ½) (pork belly, pork sauce, hot sauce, dried shallots); Fried Chicken (£5.75) (soy milk marinated chicken, Sichuan mayo, hot sauce, golden kimchi, coriander, sesame; Lamb (£5.75) (lamb shoulder, coriander sauce, garlic mayo, soy pickled chili); and Daikon (£5.50) (crumbed daikon, daikon pickle, hot sauce, coriander).
For a sweet choice, there is even a Fried Horlicks Ice Cream Bao (£5.50) with Horlicks Ice Cream in a fried bao.
I had the Classic (£5.50) which is very similar to a Gua Bao found in Taiwanese street markets.
Other than the difference in price (would have been a fraction of the cost in Taiwan), BAO offers a more modern, clean take without the greasiness and the rustic-tasting flavours.
Over in Taiwan, the pork belly meats are usually fattier and oiler, and would be a messy affair to have one. Here, everything is looking rather delicate and elegant.
It didn’t excite me as much, though I must say this is a very decent, contemporary take.
Their selection of Xiao Chi includes vegan friendly Eryngii Mushroom, Century Egg (£5.25), the spicy Taiwanese Fried Chicken with Hot Sauce (£7.75), and the vegetarian Mapo Aubergine Chi Shiang Rice (£6.75), and many more.
Portions are smaller, and I would reckon each diner can order about 2 to 3 small plates to feel sufficiently full.
Looking for a set? They have Get Bao 15 (£15 Set, 12-3pm, 5-6:30pm (Mon-Fri) where you get a choice of Bao (Classic, Confit, Fried Chicken, Lamb, Daikon), a choice of Xiao Chi (Taiwanese Fried Chicken, Eryngii Mushroom), a choice of Rice Bowl (Guinea Fowl Chi Shiang Rice, Map Aubergine Chi Shiang Rice). Add Taiwan Beer or Wine for only +£3.
They have the Long Day Menu (£20; recommended at 2pm, Bar Seat) designed to deliver a perfect moment of solitude. Curated by Erchen Chang, this menu is available at BAO Soho for single diners only. It includes Classic BAO, Peanut Milk, Guinea Fowl Rice, 1pc Fried Chicken, and Baozhong Tea.
Off to the drinks. They do have a small, dedicated bar featuring an array of Taiwanese teas, cocktails, sake, beers, wines, Dream Drinks, and the signature BAO peanut milk.
Try their Bao Weeping Sake made in collaboration with the Konisha Shuzo Brewery. It’s refreshing, floral & bao-friendly.
Tickle your taste buds with any of their Dream Drinks (£5) like Yakult Float (fermented pineapple soda, Yakult foam); Pico Fizz (Berries, BAO-made, Calpis, Soda); Grapeade (Grade Soda, Aloe Vera Foam, Vanilla); and the house special Peanut Milk which is made in-house daily with fresh vanilla.
BAO – Soho
53 Lexington Street, Soho, London W1F 9AS, United Kingdom
Opening Hours: 12pm – 3pm, 5pm – 10pm (Mon – Thurs), 12pm-10:30pm (Fri – Sat) 12pm – 5pm (Sun)