Seeking Taiwanese to please? Zoe Perrett says this Soho spot will definitely be your cup of tea
Xu. Don’t waste time wondering how to say it. All you need to know is that it must roughly translate to ‘bloody delicious’ in Taiwanese. Then bag yourself a table.
If you love Gymkhana’s elegant dark wood, forest green upholstery and ceiling fans, you’ll be right at home. Styled as a vintage Taiwanese tea house, the diminutive split-level venue teeters on the fringes of Chinatown and hipster restaurantville.
And indeed, Xu has a foot in both worlds. As you’d expect from the team from the ludicrously-popular BAO, the menu is full of authentic dishes with a knowing twist; peppered with modish ingredients like Iberico pork collar, kale and 40-day aged rump cap.
We settle in a snug booth, tucking our jackets into nifty under-seat drawers. When everything on a menu appeals, it’s sensible to contemplate it with a stiff drink in hand and, from a beguiling list including a Chinese mushroom cocktail and salted rhubarb soda, a tea-infused gin and tonic does the job.
Although it doesn’t make the decision any easier. Xu is good for the greedy: offering an endless parade of snacks and small plates plus a handful of mains, sides and carby bits. We want it all, but narrow it down to what we want most.
We smell our truffle steamed egg before we see it. Then, for all of the few seconds it remains in the bowl, a soft-set savoury custard wobbles beneath an abundantly-truffled broth. Tiny, shiny chicken wings are cloaked in a sweet-savoury glaze and crowned with caviar.
Crisp-coated lamb sweetbread morsels are piled on a puddle of super-savoury gravy with fermented greens. When I say the whole agglomeration smacks of a Big Mac, trust me: that’s a beautiful thing.
Aesthetically-arresting Taiwanese sausage-stuffed taro dumplings sit in a pool of verdant kow choi chilli oil, whilst the prize for most ingenious dish goes to a short-rib take on classic duck pancakes; the shredded meat served in the bone, topped with crisp potato fragments. Were our mouths not full, it’d be a real talking point.
Heroically, we manage to make a deep dent in a main course of aromatic, succulent shou pa chicken and a bowl of lardo lard rice that will probably cause our hearts to fail but which tastes too good for that to be an immediate concern.
To make up for it, we skip dessert. But next time, there’s a bowl of black sesame sauced almond ice-cream with my name on it. Elegant, surprising and satisfying, Xu ticks every single box. And then some.
Make it happen
Where: 30 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DL
Find out more: To visit the website, click here
Images: Carol Sachs