XU, pronounced ‘shoo’, is the next restaurant from the Taiwanese brother and sister gang who brought us Bao. Whereas Bao sees queues for miles, an informal dining room and a cheap as chips menu, XU is quite the opposite.
It takes reservations and the dining room, split over two floors, is an absolute stunner – think 1920’s Taiwan train carriage (it’s designed by Brady Williams Studio who also did Brasserie ZÃ©del which explains it). The menu of Taiwanese dishes unfamiliar to most (or at least me) is a tad more expensive.
Weâ€™re seated upstairs, in a tiny booth, probably too tiny for two strapping lads. But we donâ€™t care as below our seats are little pull out drawers for our bags which are super sexy.
We start with two OK dishes; a tomato and eel salad (Â£5.25) and â€œnumbing beef tendonâ€ (Â£5.50). The latter is certainly that – I cough in pain with the chilli heat. The thin slices of beef tendon are just a bit meh – a gristly texture and not much flavour.
The rest of the food we try is rather lush. â€œGold coinâ€ (Â£2.75 per piece) is a mouthful of spring onion pancake, foie gras terrine, goji berry and Shaoxing wine jelly. Rich would be the word here. Taro dumplings (Â£5.50) have textures both crunchy and chewy and thereâ€™s sausage inside which is sweet and most moreish.
The chicken wing (Â£3) comes with the bone sticking out like a lollipop. Itâ€™s pretty good value considering itâ€™s topped with a dollop of caviar. Just a chicken wing maybe but a mighty fine example of one.
â€˜Beef pancakeâ€™ (Â£10) is a clever take on duck and pancakes. The braised beef short rib is mixed with bone marrow and comes in the bone itself. Green strips of cucumber have a sort-of radioactive glow but add some most welcome freshness.
Char shui iberico pork (Â£18.50) is sweet and sticky and the fat is something else – if you like animal fat then this is the dish for you. A side of beef fat rice (Â£5.50), wrapped in bamboo leaf, is a solid accompaniment.
For pud, we share a brown sugar sponge cake (Â£6.50), called a Ma Lai cake, which comes in its own little steamer. Two pots accompany it filled with condensed milk and butterscotch. They are heaven but could be bigger.
A special shoutout goes to the tea; a bottle of their house cold brew is Â£7 and doesnâ€™t make you feel like youâ€™re missing out if youâ€™re not drinking alcohol.
The whole XU experience is an impressive one. The food is interesting and unusual and certainly not a cuisine Iâ€™ve come across. And the dining room is as charming as it gets. This is a new opening for the top of your list.
Would we go back? Yes.
We very kindly and unexpectedly received 50% off our bill