Bao Netil Market – Trust me, I don’t get money for blowing smoke up their bums, what they make is delicious, which is exactly what you want.

Bao’s creators are Erchen Chang and siblings Shing Tat and Wai Ting Chung. They first launched in 2012, taking buns very seriously at their street food residency at the KERB, then a year later they had permanent location in Hackney’s Netil Market – you could call this location the “father” of Bao. You can argue that they were seminal with this snug 6-seat wooden shack with no more than four items on the menu – with this outpost, they basically helped shape how we eat bao in London, just like how David Chang did in New York in 2004. Trust me, I don’t get money for blowing smoke up their bums, what they make is delicious, which is exactly what you want. They’ve now got shops in Soho (est April 2015), Fitzrova (est July 2016), Borough (est May 2019) and now Kings Cross (eat Dec 2020). I came to their humble Netil Market stall where the crowds descend after dining at their Soho and Fitzrovia shops, so I’m fully expectant of the smile inducing goodness that their lovable bao can give.

The Taiwanese fried chicken £4, is the same stuff they put into their bao in the other shops. They are the very definition of what chicken nuggets should be; a simple headline of a crispy spice encrusted succulent thigh meat that breaks apart with minimal resistance. The red sauce is close cousin of siracha that makes its point with heat and pungency.

They’ll even put some in a bao for you if you ask nicely.

Beef nugget bao £4 is what I call heaven. I remember having the beef nuggets sans bao in their Fitzrovia shop and putting them in a steamed clam shell bao just means extra swoon. You get soft bao on first contact, then the crisp outer shell, and then oozing indulgence from the braised beefy savouriness inside the crispy panko shell.

Panko daikon bao £4 is underrated. Daikon is a sweet yielding root vegetable that is packed full of flavour. What’s there not to like when you deep fry it in crispy panko and then add more of that compelling chilli sauce to it?


When did I go? March 2018
The damage: Expect to pay £15 per head for just food
The good: The petite sized snugness does exude a lot of charm, if I was local then I’d happily come here most Saturday mornings and scoff happily on their bao which are a might victory of soft carb, protein, sauce and crunch. If you’re in the area I would whole heartedly point you here, otherwise go to a branch closer to you.
The bad: It’s dinky and therefore anti-lingering, if you do then you might appear to be a selfish git and stop people from having their turn.
Rating: 4/5
Would I go again? Maybe
Address: Netil Market, 13-23 Westgate St, Hackney, London E8 

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