Family Bao are London’s bun-wielding answer to The Logans. They have Mr Bao in Peckham. They have Master Bao in Westfield. And one day, we’re sure they’ll have Baby Bao, who will surpass Prince George as London’s most eligible bachelor, because realistically an HRH title is good, but their fried chicken with spiced bean sauce is better. This brings us on to the family’s patriarch, Daddy Bao, a tiny, low-key restaurant in Tooting that looks like a cool, slightly moody bar, and happens to be making some of the most formidable bao in London.
Now, you might be thinking okay, Infatuation London, formidable bao? What are these bao doing? Saving local neighbourhood cats from trees and morphing into the world’s tastiest face mask to protect you from London’s air pollution? No, they’re not. But the shiitake mushroom bao is something that should be at the very top of things you want - no, need - to eat in London. Fluffy, filled with teriyaki covered shiitake mushrooms, a slightly smoky yellow bean sauce, and topped with pickled onions, it’s a game changer. Also, it isn’t some kind of fungus-fluke, as the pork belly and drunken prawn bao are only a sliver behind the shiitake mushroom bao in our very official rankings.
Outside of their buns, everything from their highly dippable wasabi mayo to their fun-to-say-fun-to-eat chicken poppers are all must-order situations. Even if you have every intention of coming here and just having a couple of beef brisket bao and being on your merry way, you won’t be able to. In the brief amount of time it takes for a server to come and collect your order sheet, you’ll have manically ticked away until you’ve ordered every bao on the menu, plus the pork dumplings, sesame aubergine, and some pak choi. The best part is that even if you go all in you’ll still only leave £40 lighter and enjoy it down to your last finger lick of spicy honey sauce. So you absolutely should go all in, especially in the evening when you’ll discover that this place is also secretly rolling out some seriously good cocktails and that date night doesn’t really get much better than chatting under a red lantern at the bar, sharing the specials, and drinking plum wine negronis.
The only issue with this place being about as small as Fergie’s solo career is that if you don’t partake in this thing we’ve heard referred to as ‘being organised’ and book two weeks in advance, then getting a table is going to be tricky. You’re looking at anything from a 20 minute wait for two counter seats on a Tuesday, to a couple of hours for a group table at the weekend. And while you might get the impression that some of the servers have had enough of being a bao’s bodyguard and never want to say “there might be a table at 8.30” ever, ever again, you won’t remember any of these struggles once you’re eating the shiitake mushroom bao. You’ll be too busy figuring out how you can become a member of the family.
Some very solid dumplings you’ll eat whilst eye flirting with your neighbours bao. A good kick-off dish.
Daddy Bao is low-key serving some of the best fried chicken in London. Don’t tell anyone else because otherwise it’ll be even harder to access their crispy skin and spiced bean sauce.
If you put a bowl of 300 of these in front of us with a pint of teriyaki sauce, some pretty impressive, and potentially quite repulsive, things would happen.
Not essential. But not not essential. Mostly, these sweet potato fries are your vehicle for shovelling wasabi mayo into your mouth. Enjoy.
If someone asked us to list our hobbies, watching people eat Daddy Bao’s shiitake mushroom bao for the first time would rank pretty highly. Potentially even right at the top. We could try and describe the slightly smokey sauce or the tang of the pickled onions, but all you really need to know is that this little bao will give you some big feelings.
This tender slow braised pork belly bao has the rare title of Our Second Favourite Bao At Daddy Bao But Sometimes Our Favourite If We Want Meat (we like this title because it’s nice and snappy). The pork is excellent and we’re very into the crunch from the roasted peanuts.
Controversially this is our least favorite bao, but it would probably still be one of our favourites anywhere else. The wasabi slaw is a winner.
If someone asked us what our spirit sauce is, we’d say the spicy honey sauce that comes inside this chicken bao. Realistically, we’re probably more Asda’s own brand ketchup, but a person can dream.
Bagsy. This is our band name. You can’t have it. We also won’t let you have any of this prawn bao because the pickled mooli is wild and the crispy beer-marinated prawns have excellent crunch. Back off.