For my boyfriend’s birthday, I decided to take him to one of our favourite restaurants. Last year, we visited BAO Fitzrovia and absolutely loved it, but when it closed down, we were gutted to see it go. However, the chain has several locations dotted around London, and I was keen to check out its newest site BAO Marylebone. Taking inspiration from an authentic Taiwanese kitchen, the venue has all the classic BAO eats, as well as an array of delicious dumplings. I was drooling already.
While this specific venue didn’t have the same wraparound counter dining we loved from some of the other BAO sites, we still appreciated it had the same minimalist décor, wood-panelled dining space and buzzing ambience. Another iconic BAO stable was the checkbox menu so we could tick off what we wanted – truly dangerous if you’re especially starving. Let the over-ordering begin.
We kicked off with the smacked chilli cucumber (£5) and wow – I’ve seen similar dishes and recipes on TikTok and I can see why it’s such a hit. Evoking a slightly smoky and spicy flavour, it was balanced with the coolness and mellow taste from the cucumber. I also nabbed the ox tongue salad (£7.75) which had thinly sliced slabs of meat mixed with matchsticks of various veggies and doused in a slightly zesty vinaigrette. This was a nice palate cleanser if you're seeking something to balance out the fried dishes or hearty bao buns.
Moving on, we were buzzing for the namesake dish and opted for three different ones – the lamb (£6.50), prawn shia song (£6.50) and classic bao buns (£6.50). The prawn was a nice blend of seafood, celery, water chestnut and carrots and was sandwiched in between a fried bun – think an elevated take on a hot dog. This was hands down the best bite of the evening. The fried bun almost encompassed a pillowy doughtnut texture while the refreshing filling balanced the dish out. The classic bun was also delicious but we must admit the lamb one was slightly lacking in flavour. While the meat was cooked well, we felt like there was something missing from the dish – possibly a fresh veggie for a bit more texture?
Next up was the 40-day aged beef rump rice topped with a cured egg (£9.75). I’m a sucker for a good rice bowl and the creaminess of the egg and savoury meat made this plate really shine. We also snagged the boiled prawn dumplings in egg drop soup (£10). Even though the broth was peeping hot and eggy, we felt like the dumplings were quite basic in taste. And considering this site is known for slinging out dumplings unlike the others, it was slightly disappointing.
And finally, we ended the evening with the Horlicks ice cream bao (£6.25) and since we loved the fried buns from our previous prawn bao, we knew this was going to be a smash hit. Imagine if ice cream married a funnel cake – pure indulgence.
The DesignMyNight Digest
While BAO Marylebone is known for being a dumpling house, the restaurant's bao buns, rice bowls and unique starters are what make this restaurant so special. That being said, we really enjoyed everything else too – the service was top-notch and the evening vibes were fabulous for a birthday dinner. Oh, and if you haven’t tried the desserts, the Horlicks ice cream is the perfect finish to any evening.
💰 The damage: Around £70 for dinner and two drinks each.
📍 The location: 56 James St, London W1U 1HF.
👌 Perfect for: Cute date nights and small plate lovers.
⭐ Need to know: We suggest at least three bao buns - they're sublime.