Xu marks a new direction from the dream team behind the wildly successful Bao. This time, instead of queuing for the island’s famed fluffy buns, they are offering a broader and more sophisticated approach to Taiwanese cuisine. They’ve moved from street food to an elegant restaurant that looks like it has landed in Soho from 1930s' Taipei, and yes – you can book.
How do you pronounce Xu?
Where should we sit?
With its two floors of dark wooden panelling, Ladurée macaron-hued booths and whirring ceiling fans, Xu is a gorgeous confection. On the ground floor, there's a green lacquered tea-dispensing kiosk and, at the back, two private mahjong rooms. These are bookable with a 9-course £45 feasting menu. The tabletops ingeniously flip over to allow a game.
Upstairs, diners happily perch at the pale pink marble bar. Though we loved our intimate table for two with hidden compartments under each seat for jackets and bags.
For lunch and pre-theatre there's a great value, the two-course set menu for £19.50.This often includes their two unmissable classics: luscious char sui (Iberico pork collar burnished with hoisin and soy) and decadent shou pa chicken with dripping, crisp shards of chicken skin, ginger and spring onion.
The menu is incredibly enticing; dishes are highly creative with a wonderful mix of sweet, sour, salt and plenty of umami.
It is divided into xiao tsai or bar snacks; mian shi or dumplings, buns, pancakes; mains; vegetable sides and rice. There’s a short dessert list too.
What to order?
Really, every dish is wonderful. A sharp, chilli spiked tomato broth with shards of crisp smoked eel is so tangy we need to finish every drop of juice. Prawn toasts are taken to another level, made with cuttlefish and dramatically black and intensely marine.
As Peking Duck devotees, we adore the short rib served in bone marrow with all the juices plus tangles of chilli-pickled daikon, shredded spring onion and little batons of cucumber to wrap in pancakes, which would be even better warmed to order. For chilli fiends, the fiery egg drop crab with fermented shrimp is a must. Oyster congee is a revelation as is house made silken tofu with mapo (black bean and chilli) sauce.
To finish, we found room for brown sugar sponge served in a miniature bamboo steamer with tiny jugs of condensed milk and orange butterscotch sauce to melt in.
And to drink?
Inventive cocktails, many made with tea. We sip Lo Tsui Ke, a gorgeous mix of cold-brew sparkling Hong Yu tea, gin, white miso and apple. Rare teas imported from Taiwan, including High Jade Mountain, are expertly explained and matched to dishes.
Xu has it all. It looks good enough to eat, the menu is thrilling and they're to be applauded for bringing proper Taiwanese dining to London. The service is beautifully judged and well informed. We can’t wait to return, but the only challenge may be getting a reservation, as almost all the critics love it.
|What||Xu Soho restaurant review|
|Where||30 Rupert Street, W1D 1DL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Piccadilly Circus (underground)|
31 May 17 – 31 Dec 18, Monday to Thursday opening times 12-3pm and 5-11pm, Friday and Saturday opening times 12-11pm
|Website||Click here for more information and to make a booking|