What: The latest restaurant from Taiwanese restaurant group BAO. The group is best-known for its eponymous filled steamed buns but - as the name suggests - BAO Noodle Shop is focused on noodles, specifically beef noodle soup, which is hugely popular in Taiwan but little known on these shores. The restaurant - which brings the BAO group up to five locations (six if you count its Hackney street food stall) - is located on the prominent, two-storey Shoreditch site that was once home to Andina.
Who: BAO was founded by Erchen Chang, Wai Ting and Shing Tat Chung and is backed by JKS Restaurants, the group behind Indian restaurants Gymkhana, Trishna, Brigadiers and Hoppers and the backer of a number of other London restaurants including Lyle’s, Sabor and the recently reopened Kitchen Table. The opening is hot on the heels of the more esoteric Cafe BAO, which opened proper in May having been delayed by the pandemic.
The vibe: One of the group’s hallmarks is its neat, minimal restaurant design and BAO Noodle Shop does not disappoint. The interiors draw influence from the tiled noodle shops of Taipei, with a white tiled bar, warm timber-clad walls, rounded opalescent wall lights and sculptural paper lampshades. Within the basement of the surprisingly large Redchurch Street site are entertainment rooms that are bookable for KTV - karaoke TV - sessions.
The food: Split into three sections, the menu is a focused affair. It kicks off with small plates including smacked cucumber with slivers of smoked eel; deep-fried Ogleshield cheese rolls; Taiwanese-style fried chicken; and crispy pieces of deep-fried tripe dusted with spices served with a vivid green spring onion dip, before moving on to the main event - the noodles. Two varieties of beef noodle soup are available: a classic Taipei-style broth that closely matches the style of the beef noodle soup found across Taiwan with slow-braised beef cheek and beef shortrib, spiced beef butter and fermented greens; and BAO’s take on a Tainan-style broth, which is based on recipes from the southwest of the island with a lighter broth combined with imported 400 day-aged white soy and thin slices of rare poached rump cap. There are also two noodle dishes for vegans - dan dan noodles and kelp soup with noodles and aubergines. The last section is dedicated to BAO, with options including fried chicken, prawn croquette and Iberico pork.
To drink: The liquid side of things is comparable to the rest of the BAO estate, with a focus on cocktails, non-alcoholic tea cocktails that are somewhere between a drink and a dessert and a small selection of beer and Asian whisky, including three drams from Kavalan, the distillery that put Taiwanese whisky on the map.
And another thing: At around £12 a throw the noodle soup represents excellent value, especially when the quality of the bones that go into the broth and the meat that goes into the finished soup is taken into account (it’s all sourced from high-end Cornish butcher Phillip Warren). BAO’s rejection of a cookie cutter approach to rolling out is once again paying dividends, but it looks like the trio might have identified another Taiwanese dish worthy of further exploration.