Well, here it is – my first 10 out of 10 review.
It’s elbow-to-elbow cramped. The service is hectic and rushed. The stools you must sit on are back creakingly uncomfortable. The queue is (probably) absolutely horrendous at peak hours. But when the menu is handed to you before being pointed to the back of the queue across the road, it can only be a good sign when there is literally nothing you don’t want to eat.
Thankfully, BAO have stayed true to their street food origins, and kept the menu prices at a level that lets you try a healthy selection (£1.50-£6).
The first dishes to arrive were the aged beef rump cap with aged white soy sauce (£6) and the house pickles (£1.50). Despite being a little concerned at the fattiness of the beef, it was incredible – the beefiest beef you could imagine, sliced thinly and laying in an emulsion of the natural juices and salty soy. Pickles consisted of 2 each of cucumber batons, plums and daikon slices – light and sweet, they’re great little palate cleansers between dishes.
Scallop with yellow bean sauce and garlic (£3.50) came with roe attached (why do restaurants remove them?!) torched and slightly crispy on top and soft and almost raw underneath – super fresh and sweet, with an almost smoky yellow bean broth.
The bao’s arrived next – confit pork (£4.50) and daikon (£3.50). Despite the rave reviews for the daikon I keep reading, these were the least interesting dish, reminding me of a potato croquette – still interesting enough with the hot chilli sauce and pickle. The tender confit pork one came topped with crispy, sweet onions, a perfect balance of flavours. All of this was washed down with a little shot of peanut milk (£1.50) that was reminiscent of a peanut butter shake, but much lighter and refreshing.
Having seen those either side of me gorging on the fried chicken (£5), I ordered a portion out of sheer jealousy and it was a good decision. Crunchy, not crispy (if that makes sense?) nuggets of juicy chicken thigh, doused in chilli sauce.
I still can’t condone massive queues, but if you happen to pass by when the queues are low, or (like me in this instance) are on your own and thus more likely to be able to skip a portion of the queue, DO NOT miss the chance to try this place out!