In this current climate, if you have yet to eat a bao, you are SERIOUSLY missing out.
Little fluffy white pockets stuffed with the most outrageously tasty fillings. The kind of food that makes you close you eyes and murmur 'mmmmmmm' to nobody in particular but just in a deep appreciation of what is happening on your tastebuds.
I mean, if you don't look like this guy ⬇ below when eating bao, you're doing something wrong. It's a pretty accurate representation.
Bao started life as a food truck making the rounds on London's ever growing street food scene. It then set down slightly more permanent roots in Neil Market with the Bao Bar. Finally, in March 2015 they opened their first permanent site in Soho with the help of the Sethi family (who has backed the likes of Lyle's and Gymkhana)
The trio is comprised of sister and brother Wai Ting, Shing Tat Chung, and his girlfriend Erchen Chang and, after taking Soho by storm, they are now well into their new venture in Fitzrovia.
Like the bao's they serve, their restaurants are equally small and perfectly formed. The Fitzrovia site is slightly larger than the first, 46 covers to Soho's 32, and HUZZAH! There is limited booking for the seats downstairs at Fitzrovia.
Yes, Bao does mean queueing, but the turn around is speedy with the dishes flying out the kitchen (it is street food at heart) and the bar style eating does not encouraging lingering. Which is excellent news for those standing along the windows, mouths open in anticipation to be stuffed with bao.
Now you must be asking yourself, why I am writing about Bao now? I did go back in May 2015 (I can't believe it's already that long ago!) but never wrote it up. Silly me - the worst kept secret in London.
Now though they have recently launched a fantastic new idea to use up offcuts of their dough. Mini bao.
These are served at lunch in Fitzrovia and it means you can eat all the bao on the menu for a grand total of £16! For someone like me, who likes to always sample as much of the menu as possible, it's a dream. So when I heard about it on the instagram grapevine I immediately gathering a partner in crime, Harri, and set a date to get down and BAO.
Sadly, as the mini bao are made with the offcuts, by Friday, they were SOLD OUT. Devastating because the bao are not only divine but beyond CUTE! To have a look, visit their instagram here.
Nevertheless this did not deter Hazzle and I and on a blustery spring Friday we met, armed with Harri's camera for a bloody good catch up and a munch.
For those of you that don't know, Miss Harriet Raper is the most fantastic photographer as well as an all round dreamboat. Her instagram is incredible and this is her website - http://harrietclarephotography.com (available for weddings and bar mitzvahs, literally.)
So this is why the photos in this blog are about 3 million times better than my own but back to the food. In defiance to not being able to have all the mini bao we just ordered all the regular bao and then two other dishes.
First up - Confit pork with crispy shallots and plumy spicy sauce and behind that is the Beef Short Rib with a sort of mayo. What can I say except 'mmmmmmmm'
Next in line was the Diakon Bao, a piece of diakon (chinese radish, utterly divine) breadcrumbed and deep fried topped with a pickled slice. When cooked it goes all deliciously glutinous in a way that has you questioning if it is really a vegetable as they aren't meant to taste that good. The classic bao, just peeping into the corner of the photo - pork with crushed peanuts is just the most lovely combination and didn't disappoint.
What was slightly disappointing - hence not making the final photo cut was the Black Cod in Sesame Bao. I mean, I know these are small bites but the cod was practically non existent in its squid ink batter.
Last to show up were our other dishes. All of Bao is small plates, designed to be shared and we plumped for the Fried Chicken Chop with Soy Cured Egg and the Soy Pork Loin with Ginger and Chives.
Fried chicken is also having a moment, not complaining, anything crumbed and fried and spicy is always a firm menu choice of mine. (Korean Fried Wings - can I get an AMEN!) This was no exception, still being on the bone meant the chicken was perfectly moist and the spicy sauce it comes with really packs a punch. Utterly divine and has us picking up every last scrap.
The pork loin were the thinnest slices of cold pork that were beyond moorish! The ridge of fat, despite being cold, was still perfect amongst the soy. Taiwanese charcuterie if you will.
Gratuitous yolk shot. Good for taking the edge off the spicy sauce! This was all washed down with the tiniest pots of Chin Shin Oolong tea. The perfect lunch.
Haz and I took our leave and gave up our seats to those hungry in line and skipped out, as light as the pillows of bao we'd just eaten.
For those of you that work on Charlotte Street, or near Charlotte street or TCR. I suggest early week you find a reason to leave the office at 11.45 and get down to Bao to get in line for the Minis.
Like I said we missed out on these, apparently they ran out on Wednesday! However it will be happening each week on lunchtimes.
Even if you don't work round there, get to a Bao anyway if you haven't been!