Looking For Your Next (Queue-Free) Bao Fix?
London's bao fever shows no signs of slowing — the opening of a third Bao branch in Fitzrovia doing absolutely zero to calm the nearby queues at its Soho sibling. So surely Baby Bao landing in Piccadilly (fresh from slinging buns at their first, Brighton restaurant) can only be a good thing?
We reckon it is, overall. The bao themselves make for a good pre-theatre pitstop: arriving quickly, punchy fillings, fluffy dough — and for roughly the same amount you could drop on a lacklustre sandwich and crisps at Pret. Star turn from the menu's the bao crammed with cumin-rubbed lamb, warm with spice and bright with pickles, but the (soft, smoky and chill-scattered) aubergine's not far behind.
In its favour: an expansive vegetarian and vegan menu, there's a long and well-chosen beer list, the food's dished up quickly, and at decent prices for this part of town. And — cue triumphant processional music — reservations available.
View this post on Instagram
“Who doesn't love a bao?? These beautifully squidgy steamed buns make the perfect plant-based lunch: these ones from @babybao_uk are stuffed with grilled tofu, hoisin sauce, peanuts, spring onion & cucumber 😋 but their panko squash bao, with pineapple, picked daikon & coriander, is also delicious.” - thank you @selene.nelson we’re so glad you enjoyed 🐼
Minus points: the venue doesn't lend itself to much lingering beyond the bao. Service is sunny, but bounces between nonchalant and haphazard. Drinks take a while to order, then the order's forgotten, reconfirmed with us a bit later, turn up eventually. And the restaurant's on the chilly side. We spend the length of dinner slowly adding back on the outer layers of clothing we took off when we arrived; the table next to us is doing the same.
So alright, Baby Bao might not be in destination dining, cross-London-and-queue-for-days territory (or not yet). But their cumin-lamb buns and smokily rich aubergine are still a good news story for theatre-goers, tourists, local workers — anybody stranded in a stretch of the west end that's richer in chains than charm.
Baby Bao, 66 Haymarket, SW1Y 4RW.
Last Updated 10 January 2019