It may not be as instagram-friendly as it’s older sister, Bao, but Xu is a perfectly formed little restaurant in Chinatown, showcasing the finest Taiwanese cuisine in a nostalgic, cinematic 1930s dining room. The warm wood-panelled interior is beautifully crafted and cosy, with smartly dressed tea experts pouring out fragrant hot drinks and unique Mahjong playing rooms where guests can have a private feast and learn the rules of this Taiwanese game.
Last week I visited this speciality eatery to sample the new lunch menu. A delectable array of Taiwanese treats is available for mid-day meals priced at £18 per person for the standard lunch or £29 per person for the Dumpling Tasting Menu. The latter features a selection of unusual and immaculately made dumplings, our favourites were the aromatic and comforting Pork Xian Bing with Chilli Oil and the very pretty Sweet Potato Taro Dumpling in Kow Choi Oil.
Each dumpling was vibrant in look and taste, and though I found some a little too peculiar for my tastebuds, I cannot deny that they were all presented beautifully. To cleanse the palate in between plates we had a pot of subtle tea, though there are a couple of cocktails on offer on the lunch menu, Xu’s Numbing Mary (a recipe of Sichuan infused vodka, fermented chilli bean, pink peppercorn, tomato & pickled celery) and the non-alcoholic Homemade Soy Milk (made with chinese pearl barley & macadamia nuts, and served hot).
My favourite part of the meal was the main course… Shou Pa Chicken & Kale Salad. The Shou Pa chicken is a Xu classic which never leaves the menu. Wonderfully moist chicken breast is served swimming in a dripping & aged white soy sauce and topped with crispy skin. The chicken meat was infused with a range of lovely flavours, ginger, garlic and soy perhaps the most obvious ingredients to identify but the sauce had a depth of flavour and complexity that suggested a lot more secret ingredients. We barely spoke as we enthusiastically gorged on the chicken and delicate crispy kale accompaniment.
The Xu lunch menu is a reasonably-priced way to sample tasty Taiwanese food in one of London’s most stylish restaurants. And if you work in the area a definite way to impress clients or friends who meet you for lunch.
More information and book a table at Xu here.