I’m not sure anyone – lest of all me – predicted that bao buns would be the new pulled pork of crossover dishes. Eight years ago, back when Bao was launching, the steamed Taiwanese buns were unheard of. Now they are everywhere; the dinky cloud-white and cloud-light pillows of goodness, originally filled with more traditional offerings (pork, poultry, beef) and now containing just about anything that can be crammed into the crevice. I’ve eaten three in Birmingham recently. One in the place that everyone goes for bao which was good, one in the new taproom that was shambolic and another in a new-ish place so bad that I wrote them an email to tell them just how bad it was and subsequently turned down a free offer to revisit. And no, I won’t be writing about either of the bad ones. From those three bao’s two were made fresh, of which one was cooked through and one was not, whilst the other one was the kind of limp-dicked flaccid only achieved from buying in frozen and defrosting. Such is the popularity that they are in every supermarket, from Aldi to ASDA to Waitrose. I’m yet to try the supermarket ones because if I want to feast on reheated buns filled with cheap meat, I’ll take up the revisit offer and do it for free.

The danger with the mass appeal of the bao is that just like pulled pork, the market becomes so saturated with the mundane that we forget just how brilliant they can be in the correct hands, like at Bao, a place I have been coming to since they opened in 2015. I’ve never wrote about Bao before, maybe because their opening pre-dates this blog, more likely because I’m intrinsically lazy. But as I was sat in the new taproom, thumbing the sodden uncooked centre of the bun it dawned on me that whilst that place deserves zero coverage on here, Bao absolutely does.

The first thing about Bao is the queue. There is always a queue at Soho and Borough, less so at the much larger Kings Cross. I’d suggest going at noon sharp, 2.30pm or 5pm to avoid the queues and to benefit from what is one of London’s great deals. The ‘Bao 15’, which, the more intelligent of you may have worked out costs £15. You get a bao, either fried chicken or a mushroom dish I’ve never tried, and a choice of rice. Order as I do and it would come to £23 usually. It’s a nice little saving and more importantly a great lunch.

The bao is excellent. What started as a benchmark of quality remains the benchmark for quality. The steamed buns have no chew despite being structurally resilient, not much bigger than a crab claw in size and filled generously. It’s all superb, but I like the pork belly that somehow manages to have both meat with a little bite and waxy fat that evaporates in the mouth, and the braised lamb that echoes the cooking from the Uyghur region of Northern China. The fried chicken has crunch but I like it on its own when the robust seasoning takes over. And also get the guinea fowl chi shang rice; a kind of poultry and rice bowl with lubricating egg yolk, pickles, crispy onions, and lots of garlic. Probably enough for a light lunch on its own, but hey, it’s only fifteen quid, who cares. Part of me feels a bit daft for writing about somewhere on just about everyone’s radar though it is absolutely worth revisiting as a reminder for just how good this most ubiquitous of dishes can be.