Soho is full of important landmarks. There’s the water pump on Broadwick Street where a famous smart person figured out a cure for cholera. There’s Berwick Street Market, where Oasis took the picture for the album you probably spent a huge chunk of your teenage years being moody to. And then there’s Soho Square, where everyone hangs out in the summer and gets baked in the middle of the day. Last but by no means least, there are the mugs queueing for Bao on Lexington Street.
Yes, the queue for Bao is now officially a London landmark. Deemed so by us. Because day in and day out, from midday to midnight, you’ll find dozens of people are waiting to get into this Taiwanese bao shop.
The question we’re here to grapple with is: have these people, queuing for steamed buns as if they were waiting for rations during World Wars, completely lost their minds? Or is it worth it?
We’re not sure we’d wait for 45 minutes just for the Taiwanese buns that Bao is best-known for, but we would enthusiastically join the queue for almost everything else on the menu. The small plates, which are modern takes on traditional Taiwanese dishes, are the best things to eat at Bao. In fact, they’re some of the most exciting things to eat anywhere in town right now. You’ll find things like trotter nuggets, Taiwanese fried chicken, and beef with aged soy - all of them excellent.
Bao would be busy all the time even if it were twice the size, but it’s especially packed because it’s a tiny place. Bring a couple of friends who are both willing to wait and who are up for ordering everything on the menu. We’d advise getting in line early when they open, when the line’s a little gentler, and the wait times are more predictable (20 minutes or so). That way, you won’t have to be ‘one of those mugs’ for too long.
This is our favourite of the bao (baos?). We’re suckers for anything involving pork belly, and this is a good example.
The classic bao has shredded pork with peanuts on top. It’s pretty good, though we still prefer the confit.
If you have a vegetarian in tow, don’t worry - Bao actually does some solid veg dishes. Just ask. The daikon bao is spicy and crunchy and very good, regardless of whether you’re giving meat a miss or not.
We have eaten A LOT of fried chicken in our lifetimes, and this is probably one of the best we’ve ever tried. Seriously, you can keep the Southern Fried stuff. Order another one, and don’t stop when you’re full - stop when you hate yourself.
We’d join that bloody queue just for this. The beef is tender and the soy sauce somehow makes it taste better by a factor of 10. You won’t want to share it.
These taste like the best drinking snack ever invented. We’re ordering a bucket of these the next time we’re on the ciders in Soho Square.
We like blood cake (black pudding) and this definitely looks very cool, but you don’t need to order this.
You don’t really need dessert, but you’re not here to simply satisfy your appetite - you’re here because you have an insatiable urge to eat delicious things. This does not stay intact at all, but actually, it’s a cool idea and still really tasty.