I've been meaning to go to Bao on Soho's Lexington Street since it opened to much hype late last year following the success of its street food in Hackney. The problem is, when such a small outfit does so well so quickly (and with the ever-present no reservation policy) there comes the inevitable queue. I don't like to queue; I have better things to do, so Bao had remained out of reach. Last week though, I found myself in the area with in fact not much better to do at around 11.30. Bao opens at 12. A plan began forming in my mind and I smugly nestled in to the Pret directly opposite with a takeaway cup and some emails and prepared to wait - and then run - in order to beat said queue. My view:
At around 11.50 some suspicious shuffling began outside, so I swiftly joined the ranks and waited out the last ten minutes on the street. A nice waitress came out and supplied menus to make the short wait more productively bearable.
The thrilling moment when we were escorted across the road and into the restaurant finally came, and I could feel the less fortunate wannabe diners' eyes boring into my retreating back as they knew I'd be taking up one of their potential spaces with a non-dining one year old.
Bao is diminutive to say the least, so the fact that the queue looks like this by 12.15 on a Wednesday is unsurprising. Get there early - either alone or in an easily seated twosome - or prepare to wait:
Happily ensconced in the window seat I chatted to the waitress about what I should have. That's the problem with dining solo: you can't force anyone to have the other things you fancy on the menu and try a bit. I knew I had to try the much-Instagrammed Aged Beef Rump; the Trotter Nuggets jumped out at me but I really struggled to pick which of the bao I wanted. I wanted them all. I settled on the Lamb Shoulder, begrudgingly tearing my eyes away from the Confit Pork in order to avoid a double pork scenario with the trotters.
The beef came first and oh, it is a beauty isn't it:
The tell-tale yellowing of the fat demonstrates how well it had been aged, and the Aged White Soy was really really good with it. £6 is quite amazing for it.
Next, the nuggets:
I know trotter sounds awful, but both I and the Taiwaneses are pretty into our offally offcuts and really it just makes for a particularly piggy little yumminess. There is a certain gelatinous quality, which I love, but might not be for everyone. They certainly weren't for Leo as I scoffed the lot, blaming the obvious salt crysals and the accompanying burnt green chilli sauce for my inability to share. He was having none of it and continued his rice cake with contempt.
Next, the main event. The bao is a traditional Taiwanese street food item; puffy buns filled with meat - usually pork. They're everywhere in London at the moment (Flesh & Buns, Bo Drake, Yum Bun and so many more) and the Chinese/Japanese/Taiwanese style has rocketed through menus all over town. Giles Coren recently reviewed Bao and had a lot of love for their buns, so my hopes were high. I wanted at least Flesh & Buns level of milk bun fun.
The bao arrived with a startling green dressing over some nicely portioned pulled lamb that was all but winking at me. The bun was perfectly white (they're made with milk) and sorry for used that tired old phrase 'light as air' but it's true. A small, lactic cloud had arrived. For they are small; great for me for a multiple item lunch, but you'll need more than one for dinner or if there's any sharing going on. Coke for scale:
The pickled chillis brought the sheepiness down a bit and the bright green sauce I believe to be predominantly coriander and of course it all went together beautifully. All for just £5.
The trotters had been £4 and so my bill was just under £20. Lovely stuff. See you in the queue.