Test Driving Cafe BAO in King's Cross - with a menu that makes you want to order everything

cafe bao king's cross reviewA look at Cafe Bao - and you can just see the private room overlooking the restaurant in the top left. 

So what should we know about Cafe Bao?

As the name suggests, it's part of the Bao London family. This is their take on the popular Western-style cafes you'll find in Taiwan and Japan. As co-founder Erchen Chang explains best it's inspired by "Yōshoku cuisine, an interpretation of western food, seen through an Asian lens." So it's part bakery, cafe and restaurant.

Where is it exactly?

You'll find it on St Pancras Square, in between King's Cross and St Pancras stations, so it really couldn't be more connected or easier to get to. Although it's in a modern building, they've added a sort of Mad Men-style panelling which makes it look very distinctive - and there's a beautiful upstairs dining room/workshop space with glass walls overlooking the cafe.

Where's good to meet friends for a drink first?

There are plenty of options, including the two nearest - Notes and the big Drake & Morgan, as well as the bar at Hoppers next door and we always like Parcel Yard in King's Cross itself. But, you might want to save yourselves - because the drinks list here, the cocktails in particular, are worth trying. Think 1970s with a Bao Twist.

cafe bao king's cross reviewLeft to right - Milk Tea Old Fashioned (£10) and a dayglo Melon Floatini (£9) made with Midori, Toki Whisky and milk foam so good you'll need a spoon to scrape it all out.

Presumably, they also do teas and coffees?

The bubble tea menu here sounds amazing - you'll be hard-pressed to choose between drinks like their Mocha Bubble, an iced mocha served with brown sugar tapioca pearls and a purple taro foam. Or what about a Salted Custard Bubble made with custard milk, salted custard foam and nutmeg?

What's on the menu?

While there is a bao section as per usual, the menu here gives greater space to a range of interesting small and larger sharing dishes. There's also a baked goods and desserts section either to end your meal with or pop in for a coffee and a cake.

Here's an idea of what's on offer:

cafe bao king's cross reviewShia Song prawn and trout roe toast (£4.75) - can all prawn toast be like this in the future, please?

cafe bao king's cross reviewTaiwanese fried chicken kiev (£6.75) - this comes with very specific instructions from the waiter regarding the careful cutting into it. Heed it or you may be heading to the dry cleaners the following day.

cafe bao king's cross reviewSeafood roll (£8.75) - lobster and crayfish bao roll with mayo, clarified butter and chives. As good as that sounds.

cafe bao king's cross reviewBeef cheek and tendon croquette topped with egg yolk (£7.50) - the wobbly yolk does a disappearing act when you cut open the croquette, making the already pretty unctuous snack into something even more delicous.

cafe bao king's cross reviewBaked ham hock congee pie (£10) - crack open the pastry on top to reveal the warming ham congee centre. 

cafe bao king's cross review40-day aged beef steak rice with cheese sauce and egg yolk - Ever since the first BAO opened in Soho there's usually been a dish featuring this amazing beef. Here it's served sizzling on its cast iron dish and covered in cheese sauce.

What's the menu like for vegetarians and vegans?

There's one veggie bao - the daikon - and a smattering of veggie and fully plant-based snacks and dishes. One fully vegan dish is on the sides section - but everyone should be ordering it.

cafe bao king's cross reviewMaple syrup fries (£3.50) - it's not possible to overstate the addictive nature of these chips. They are god-tier.

Room for dessert?

If you hit the menu as hard as we did, potentially not. That said you'll want to ensure you have at least some of these.

cafe bao king's cross reviewBAOfiterole (£6) - stuffed with Horlicks ice cream with chocolate sauce.

cafe bao king's cross reviewCoconut BAO loaf slice (£3.50) - if you can't eat it all they'll send it home with you, all boxed up, with clear instructions on how to steam it (note that this is the whole loaf, not just the slice).

What about drinks?

There's a very small wine list (one white, red and fizz) along with sake made especially in collaboration with the Konishi Shuzo Brewery. Other options include their own beer and a tight list of whisky.

Summing it up:

If there's one complaint to be made about this BAO - it's nigh on impossible to decide what to order. Every single dish reads like a belter - and tastes even better. If you can, it would benefit frequent short visits to work your way through the menu, just to make sure you don't miss anything out. Beside us a chap was sitting with a glass of whisky and a small selection of the baos and small plates - he looked like he was on to a winner.


More about Cafe Bao

Where is it? 4 Pancras Square, Kings Cross, London N1C 4AG

How to book? Book online

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @bao_london.

Hot Dinners dined as guests of Cafe Bao. Prices correct at time of publication.


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