There are days when you just want to do relax and do absolutely nothing but then there are also days where you just have to get out the house and make the most of the day. So when I had a rare day off in the week, I hopped on a train to London for a day out with my sister and managed to get a reservation at a restaurant that I have been meaning to visit. On my travels that day, we walked through Somerset House which is always breathtaking, especially in the sunshine. I took an obligatory snap and reminisced the days when I used to attend fashion week in that very same space. It’s been the longest time!
Blouse – Claudie Pierlot | Skirt – Whistles | Bag – Saint Laurent | Shoes – Converse
Lunchtime was spent at Xu. The newest restaurant from the creators of Bao which serves up delicious Taiwanese dishes in a more formal environment. Before we go on to the food, let’s talk about the interior. The restaurant is designed to feel like 1930s Taipei and features plenty of glossy lacquer, paneled walls, wooden ceiling fans and pale green and pink seating. There are even private Mahjong rooms for hire on the ground floor. It’s a charming and cosy space and a world away from the hustle and bustle of Soho.
Once settled into our booth, I picked an oolong tea and set about ordering our food. I knew instantly the things I wanted to order and picked the xian bing (best described as a kind of pan fried meat pie), taro dumplings with Taiwanese sausage, crispy sanbei chicken wing with caviar, egg drop chili crab, lardo onion rice and in an attempt to balance things out, kale with lap yuk (soy cured pork belly). All were delicious.
My favourites were the sanbei chicken wings which were crisp and the sauce was just so tasty, I could easily eat on its own with a bowl of white rice (exactly what my grandad would have done!). Sanbei is a sweet and savoury sauce made up of a mixture of soy, rice wine and sesame oil. The caviar, really cut through the sweet/sour flavour of the sauce and worked really well. The chili crab was a must-order dish after seeing rave reviews and it didn’t disappoint. The richness of the crab head meat, slithers of egg, chili and the cod roe was absolutely delicious, it’s definitely got some heat to it but nothing too crazy. I ate spoonfuls of the crab meat with the lardo rice which was probably the best accidental pairing ever. The rice may not appeal to everyone as it’s literally rice tossed with pork fat topped with thin slices of lardo and crispy onions but it is SO moreish when paired up with the spicy crab. Absolutely no regrets.
Finishing off the meal, we ordered both of their desserts which was a really fragrant almond ice cream with black sesame sauce with sea salt and ma lai cake. Both of these reminded me of my childhood, from my mum’s almond and sesame tong sui (sweet soup) to our usual orders of ma lai cake when we eat dim sum with family – except Xu’s version of ma lai cake comes with orange butterscotch and condensed milk, which we happily drizzled over the sponge. As with most Chinese/Asian foods, desserts were good but it’s definitely all about the mains.
Xu is certainly worth a visit. If you’ve been to Bao then you know that these guys are great at what they do and worth the hype. Similar to Bao, portions are on the dainty side (I’m glad I ordered two portions of the chicken wings as sharing one would have been impossible!) and it’s easy to run up a bill, especially because you will want to order everything. I need to return to Xu to sample the rest of the menu including the lamb sweet breads, iberico char siu pork and the much photographed, carabinero prawn with XO sauce. I’ve already had a couple of offers from friends who want to accompany me on my next visit so until then Xu, I’ll be back soon…