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 Zédel which explains it). The menu of Taiwanese dishes unfamiliar to most (or at least me) is a tad more expensive.
We’re seated upstairs, in a tiny booth, probably too tiny for two strapping lads. But we don’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 (£5.25) and “numbing beef tendon” (£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. “Gold coin” (£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 (£5.50) have textures both crunchy and chewy and there’s sausage inside which is sweet and most moreish.
The chicken wing (£3) comes with the bone sticking out like a lollipop. It’s pretty good value considering it’s topped with a dollop of caviar. Just a chicken wing maybe but a mighty fine example of one.
‘Beef pancake’ (£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 (£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 (£5.50), wrapped in bamboo leaf, is a solid accompaniment.
For pud, we share a brown sugar sponge cake (£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 £7 and doesn’t make you feel like you’re missing out if you’re not drinking alcohol.
The whole XU experience is an impressive one. The food is interesting and unusual and certainly not a cuisine I’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