I have a new favourite lunch spot in Soho, though I’m loath to tell you about it because the queues are long enough as it is… But since it’s my prerogative to keep you informed of such hotspots, I’ll reveal all: BAO.
BAO started as a street food market stall, but has now put down more permanent roots on Lexington Street. The space is small, and normally with a long queue outside (I’d suggest arriving at 11:50 so you are seated right away when it opens for lunch at noon) – there’s only space for about 25 people (at communal tables and bars).
Once inside, it feels like the inside of a little wooden box – no exposed brick or dangling squirrel cage lightbulbs here, like most other recent openings – shock horror, BAO is breaking the mould! Panelled entirely in light wood, it is unfussy with a Japanese feel – no random knick knacks on shelves, just a clean-lined, functional space.
To drink, there’s tea in teeny terracotta teapots, a couple of Asian beers and saké. The iced Foam Tea is a favourite of mine.
Ordering food is like completing a mini golf score sheet – fill in the number of desired dishes using the provided pencil, and your food will be with you within minutes.
A bao is a fluffy steamed bun (also served at Flesh & Buns in Seven Dials). The winning combos for me were the confit pork belly and ‘Classic’ braised pork with peanut powder – each around £4.
Dessert is imperative – a fried bao stuffed with malty Horlicks ice cream – totally worth the brain freeze!
Although the baos are the main event, snacky small plates are adventurous and tempting too: Pig’s blood cake (similar to black pudding and served as a lollipop) and trotter nuggets for the brave; smoky spicy aubergine with wonton crisps and scallops are just as delicious if you’re playing it safer.
The queues that form down Lexington Street each mealtime are totally understandable, so be savvy with your arrival time and hit this little wooden box of Taiwanese goodness asap.
Lunch with a starter, 2 baos, dessert and a drink comes in at around £20 per person. Also open for dinner.