Rupert Street has not-so-quietly been gaining in elegance of late. Palomar’s new next door neighbour and Bao’s decadent younger sibling, XU (pronounced shoo), being among the most recent edition.
After the sketchy, bao-shovelling character that is the Bao London’s identity took Instagram by storm, which led to not one but two permanent Bao sites, XU comes as a more romantic sequel. Modelled on traditional 1930s Taiwanese tea bars, the elaborate interior combines accents of the mountainous landscape of Yushan, rich lacquered wood, marble and antique pink with theatrical details such as a railway clock and a tea booth creating points of interest on both floors. Careful thought has gone into the arrangement and interior. Drawers for storage of coats/whatever else you may have with you can be found under your seat and those wanting to enjoy a meal alone may have their very own single-seater table.
Taiwan was ruled by the Japanese for 50 years after the first world war which allowed plenty of time for culinary traditions to mingle. While some dishes have sadly been removed from the menu (e.g. the chicken feet), XU is a physical reminder that Taiwanese cooking consists of more than just bao (which doesn’t appear anywhere on the menu by the way).
Be daring and try the slightly al dente, slightly fudgy beef tendon or the airy-yet-buttery cuttlefish toast. Texture is as important to Taiwanese cuisine as flavour. The cocktail menu also allows guests to experience Taiwanese flavour combinations with ingredients such as white miso, Chinese basil, Kombu rum and Oolong.
XU serves as a delightful reminder that no matter how many carefully-crafted restaurants are sweeping across social media today, there is always something exciting and new on the way to keep London on its toes, even when you thought there was no room for improvement.
Words by Natalie Strange, Graphic Designer