It’s been a while since I last had a good kongbakpao (roast pork sandwiched in a fluffy white bun). After all, everyone knows that Asians will spontaneously combust if they go for more than a week without Asian food. So when Bao suddenly blew up over the internet, I had to go down for a taste.
Bao is basically the new kid on the block to jump onto the Asian street food craze. Bao’s menu is indisputably Asian, harkening back to its roots in kongbakpao, but reinventing it for a hip London palate. Their Classic Bao has them serving braised pork in a bao (£4), alongside more adventurous fare such as a Lamb Bao (£5) served with garlic mayo, coriander sauce and soy pickled chili, as well. Bao was started by outlet manager Wai Ting’s brother, and its memorable mascot of an impossibly rotund man stuffing his face with baos was illustrated by her sister.
Our party of 5 queued for 1.5 hours in the cold from 530pm on a Thursday (yes, it was THAT packed). Needless to say, we were famished and aching for some warm buns in our tummy when we finally got a table.
We tried most of what was available on the menu, but the standout dishes would have to be our appetizer, a whole scallop served in vinegar, szechuan style (£4). We ordered one each and wolfed it down, thoroughly satisfied with the amount of spice and its rich taste.
Although their signature buns weren’t bad, unfortunately they weren’t mouth wateringly memorable. We also found it a little pricey at £4-5 per bun, and it was necessary to get at least 2-3 buns per person in order to satisfy a rumbling stomach.
The best bao that Bao had to offer? Surprisingly, it has to be their Fried Horlicks Ice Cream Bao (£4), which was essentially malted ice cream sandwiched between two halves of a crispy, golden deep fried bao, which served as a sweet finish to a somewhat unsatisfying meal.
I’ll say this: come to Bao for the hype and to tell people that you’ve queued for hip Asian street food. But I probably won’t be coming back for a repeat visit anytime soon, unless some very unique new items pop up on their menu.
53 Lexington Street
London W1F 9AS
Mon-Sat, 12-3pm, 530-1030pm