UPDATE: Unfortunately XU closed in November 2021. They do not plan to re-open however, the same spot is now home to a joint venture JKS restaurant: Speedboat Bar. But for now, I’ll leave this review here, for nostalgia’s sake.
Location: West End, London, England
When I heard that the team behind BAO was opening a fancy-schmancy restaurant, I immediately knew I had to go when it opened. This was back in 2017 mind you, but the London food scene has definitely been raving about this place ever since. The vibe is half the specialness of XU Teahouse and Restaurant. It’s essentially a love letter to 1930s Taipei, with delicate and formal details throughout their beautiful space. We’re talking dark wood paneling, white tufted booths, and hand-printed murals. It’s meant to evoke Taiwanese social clubs and luxury dining rooms of the 1930s and I have to say it — I’m loving it.
My first visit to XU was actually on my graduation day! Victor’s parents were in town visiting, so we decided to go out to celebrate. I started with XU’s tea tasting course. I tried six types of tea, each sourced from a different region in Taiwan.
The first dish we tried was the cuttlefish toast, served with whipped cod roe. It was incredibly creamy and flavourful. I also really liked the texture of the dish.
Victor’s parents had some bakkwa (mixed jerky) with some interesting sauces to dip them in. It was fun to watch them try out the different types of meat and sauces.
Our veggie main was the Mapo Tofu. This was my first time trying this dish, and it has since become one of my favourites. It’s spicy and oily, which makes sense because the dish originally comes from the Sichuan province of China, however, XU’s version adds a certain sweetness to the sauce.
Victor and his parents shared the Char Siu Iberico Pork and though I did not try it, they seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed it.
My second visit to XU was even more lovely. This time I went with a best friend of mine who is as obsessed with food as I am! Our visit was out of the blue so we had to sit at the bar, but we thoroughly enjoyed it.
We shared several dishes, including my beloved cuttlefish toast with whipped cod roe, which was as delicious if not better than last time. We also had Tomato & Smoked Eel with Sichuan Oil & Soy Dried Daikon. It was an interesting and yummy combo, very refreshing. We also had the Sweet Potato & Miso Taro Dumplings in Kow Choi Oil, which were also yummy. And finally, we had the Taro Pancake with Burrata & Fish Floss. This was definitely the most unusual dish we tried, but I loved it. The burrata texture with the pancake was a winning combination for me.
We squeezed in some absolutely divine dessert: Ma Lai Cake (Steamed Brown Sugar Cake) served with Condensed Milk and Butterscotch dips. It was so decadent but the perfect ending to a perfect meal.
All in all, XU is a very special place ready to provide you with a very special experience. It always makes me want to travel to Taipei! I can’t wait to return to XU and try even more of their dishes. Next time I’d love to try their Afternoon Tea.
Excited yet? Also, if you haven’t been to BAO, then you should also consider visiting them too! Check out my restaurant review here.