I typically don’t write about Taiwan-related stuff that’s happening off the island, but the success of Bao London is too important to ignore.
Their story is similar to that of Boba Guys in San Francisco, where ambitious and talented entrepreneurs are interpreting and reinventing Taiwanese culture for new audiences.
The Bao London team has taken something traditional (and cheaply priced), and modernized it by injecting great design, premium ingredients and social media buzz. It’s a classic formula that’s resulted in something fresh, original and uniquely Taiwanese.
I’m looking forward to stuffing my face at Bao London one day. Meanwhile, here’s a look at what they’ve built…
Bao London was started in 2013 by three 20-somethings in London: siblings Wai Ting and Shing Tat Chung, who grew up in Nottingham, and Erchen Chang, who moved to the UK from Taiwan when she was 14.
Husband and wife Erchen and Shing are the co-head chefs. Wai Ting manages the front of house and drinks menu. They all studied design before spending a summer traveling around Taiwan.
When they got back to London, they opened the Bao Bar in Netil Market, then finally opened a full-service restaurant in Soho in April 2015.
They make and steam their buns every day. Of course they serve the classic braised pork gua bao with peanut powder, fermented greens and coriander.
They also have original recipes including the lamb bao, the confit pork bao, the fried chicken bao and the “crumbed daikon bao”, which sounds really interesting.
Beyond gua baos, you can also order Taiwanese-style “small eats” like pig’s blood cake, trotter nuggets, battered sweet potato chips with plum pickle salt, mushroom with century egg, and fried chicken marinated in soy milk, served with their homemade hot sauce.
Their food has earned praise from UK press including The Independent, The Evening Standard, The Telegraph, Bloomberg and even Country & Town House with their cute headline pun, “Bao London Pulls Out The Big Buns“.
The trio has traveled extensively around Taiwan and Asia, finding inspiration to take back to London. Above you can see they’ve visited that famous Gongguan gua bao restaurant, which probably hasn’t changed at all in the past 10 or 20 years.
Drinks on offer include peanut milk, Taiwan Beer, hot oolong and cold foam tea imported from Taiwan, as well as sake from both Taiwan and Japan. And like any proud Taiwanese business, they have a bottle of Kavalan Single Malt on the shelf.
It’s an understatement to say that they’re killing it. Fingers crossed they consider bringing their concept to Taipei.
53 Lexington Street, Soho W1F 9AS
Photo credit: The Bao London Instagram