Over the years, you’ve probably heard some great dating stories. You’ve no doubt been told of ridiculous, hilarious encounters (humans are weird) and maybe you’ve even been privy to some epic tales of true love found. But you never hear much about those ‘meh’ dates. You know the ones: someone swipes right on an objectively very good-looking person, who also happens to be his or her type on paper. They meet. They have a pleasant enough time. But there was no spark, so they never see each other again. The end.
That’s how we feel about Xu. It’s a nice enough place, but there’s no spark.
On paper, Xu has all the things we look for in a restaurant: good pedigree (it’s from the guys who own Bao), a really nice space, a great location in Soho, and a menu with a new twist on Taiwanese cuisine.
The main problem with Xu is that the actual restaurant is more impressive than the food. The space is inspired by the films of Wes Anderson (so the restaurant tells us), and there are cool little details throughout - like a table made specifically for solo diners, and drawers underneath your seat to stow your bag. We prefer the upstairs to the downstairs Tea Room area, which has a bar awkwardly placed in the middle of the room, but both are very attractive places to eat.
When it comes to the food, the menu has words that we’re very into on paper: there’s stuff like ‘mini spring onion pancake with foie gras’, ‘chicken wing with caviar’, and ‘short rib and bone marrow’. But what happens when we actually eat those things? Nothing much, really. At best the dishes are reasonably good, like the bone marrow and tofu, and at worst, somewhat tasteless - avoid the crab. Overall, there’s no star dish that will leave you overcome with emotion and wanting more. It means you end up with a menu that gets pretty dull pretty quickly, giving you fewer and fewer reasons to go back.
So that’s it. Another not-quite love story that won’t go down in history. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re just going to step next door to The Palomar. It’s not cheating. We have a real spark there.
This is a mini spring onion pancake with foie gras. Mini by name. Mini by impact.
A single deep fried chicken wing with caviar on top. It’s nice, but not as satisfying as the three KFC hot wings you could have at the same price.
This is a twist on roast duck and pancakes, where the beef is cooked in bone marrow. You scoop it out onto the pancakes with garnish. You eat it. And then you move on with your life.
Fresh and spicy. Get it if you like eel. Don’t get it if you don’t like eel.
An OK beef dish, with a fried egg added for show. Except there isn’t much of a show to start with.
Unfortunately, neither the chilli nor the egg nor the crab are able to inject much flavour into this dish. Skip it.
If you’ve never had mapo tofu, we’d suggest giving it a try at Xu. If you have, you’ll feel like you’ve had a better version of this dish elsewhere.