BAO’s bottomless success has seen the brand open a sixth site in the capital, this time at the recently revamped Battersea Power Station. It’s the second of its noodle shop franchises, a concept based around the famous beef noodle shops of Taiwan.
We arrive at prime lunch hour at 1pm on a Saturday and join a queue of hungry shoppers, its wide shop front advertising the already bustling dining room. True to its signature style, the space is filled with small stools and communal tables, as well as red seats overlooking the open kitchen, with diners packed neatly together to create a buzzy and convivial atmosphere.
This is certainly casual dining, but it is also one of London’s best, and most popular, restaurants. Why? The atmosphere is a huge part of it, with its infectious buzz, friendly staff and low-level seating offering a gregarious meeting point to catch up with your mates. The food is also awesome. At the heart of this particular concept is its beef noodles, a heady bowl of rich broth, al dente noodles and slow-cooked beef cheek and short rib which fall apart at the slightest touch.
You can also indulge in all of BAO’s signature xiao chi and bao buns, from superior Taiwanese fried chicken, crisp and covered in a punchy hot sauce, to soft cull yaw dumplings in neon chilli oil. Its bulbous bao buns are as good as ever, from beef short rib with egg emulsion to ‘classic’ braised pork with powdered peanuts. A fried prawn bao is a feat of innovation. If you’ve never tried a fried bao bun before, it is beautifully crisp, supremely fluffy, and a bit like eating one of those fried doughnuts you get at the seaside.
Our meal came to £35 a head, and we over ordered, which puts this comfortably in the realm of affordable to mid-range dining. BAO is the sort of place you can confidently recommend to a friend - and then make them take you with them.