Cafe Bao is the pick of buzzy Pancras Square
Restaurant that opened last winter – then shut – then opened again has a lively atmosphere and lightning quick service
06 August, 2021 — By Tom Moggach
Cafe BAO’s ham hock pie is an adventure
THERE’S a new chapter in the King’s Cross story – the blossoming of Pancras Square. On a summer’s evening, it is both tranquil and buzzy – attracting a wide cross-section of Londoners craving a night out.
The square is tucked behind King’s Boulevard, the long strip that connects the two train stations with Granary Square. The gigantic new Google headquarters, still under construction, looms skywards on the right-hand side.
By day, Pancras Square has more of an office atmosphere. People pop down for lunch, relaxing under the shade of mature trees or by the edge of terraced fountains.
In the evening and at weekends, the area shifts up a gear as people throng to the restaurants and bars – all of the highest quality.
Cafe Bao is pick of the bunch. This opened last winter – then shut – then opened again, relying on their in-store bakery to tick over.
It is the fourth restaurant from a group that made their name selling Bao buns, those soft pillows of sweet, steamed dough from Taiwan.
This place is modelled on cafés in Asia that serve dishes with a Western twist. As their publicity explains: “It’s known as Yōshoku cuisine, an interpretation of western food seen through an Asian lens”.
All the Bao sites excel in their design and attention to detail. This is a business with a Food Art Director: a brilliant woman called Erchen Chang, who started off with a street stall in east London.
A plate of mixed pickles is a mini masterpiece of shape and colour. The buns are carefully coloured – from egg-yolk yellow to speckled greys.
On the wall, there’s a framed Razzle Dazzle Bao suit, which stitches together illustrations of their iconic dishes.
There’s a sense of fun, too. The label on their own brand craft beer, infused with oolong tea, says it pairs well with good times, dinner for one and white socks.
Cafe Bao is a casual place to eat out – with a lively atmosphere and lightning quick service.
I rated their prawn toasts: a cube of golden, deep-fried bread topped with minced prawns, whole prawns and glistening globes of trout roe which crackle and pop in the mouth.
The bao are divine and highly addictive. I kicked off with the classic, filled with soft-braised pork, sprigs of coriander, fermented greens and a dusting of peanut powder.
A baked ham hock pie is an adventure. Your bowl arrives sealed with a tall, golden disc of puff pastry. Crack through it with your spoon to reach the molten contents: a mix of ham nuggets and congee rice porridge, which you mix with spring onion and fiery chilli paste.
I can’t fault Cafe Bao – a must visit in King’s Cross. Don’t leave without a box of their beautifully branded buns and cakes, including the salted egg custard and sticky coconut loaf.
4 Pancras Square, N1C