Michael Dea­con at Daddy Bao in south London

Our critic has found the ideal food for a han­gover - and it’s de­li­cious the rest of the time too

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - Michael Dea­con Pho­to­graphs: Jasper Fry

TALK ABOUT FAST FOOD. We were in and out of Daddy Bao in­side an hour – hav­ing eaten pretty much ev­ery­thing on the menu. Apart from a Mcdon­ald’s, you won’t find much quicker ser­vice.

Which sur­prised me, after what I’d read on the Daddy Bao web­site.

Un­der a sec­tion headed ‘Jobs + Ac­tive Lis­ten­ing’ was ad­vice for any­one who fan­cied work­ing as a waiter at Daddy Bao. Ap­par­ently, its waiters were ex­pected to ‘Ac­tively Lis­ten’.

‘When you ask a cus­tomer how their day was,’ it ex­plained, ‘don’t im­me­di­ately move on to ask them what they want to or­der… We want you to ask the cus­tomer how their day was, and then re­ally lis­ten to their an­swer, and then en­gage with them. We don’t care if you take 15 min­utes to take their or­der. In fact, we’d love that. It means you’ve formed a con­nec­tion.’

Fif­teen min­utes. A whole quar­ter of an hour of small talk with the waiter. In fact, not just small talk: some­thing more per­sonal than that. Some­thing in­ti­mate. Some­thing pri­vate. Some­thing to help the waiter ‘form a con­nec­tion’ with you.

It sounded ter­ri­fy­ing. I dreaded to think what it would be like.

‘Good evening, sir! Nice to see you. How was your day?’

‘Fine, thanks.’

‘Fine! You had a fine day. I’m so glad your day was fine, sir. That’s great to hear. So, uh… what kind of re­la­tion­ship did you have with your mother, sir?’ ‘Par­don?’

‘Were you close to her, grow­ing up,

sir? Did she hug you enough? Did she hold you when you cried? Or did she tell you not to be such a pa­thetic, sniv­el­ling lit­tle wretch, and slam your bed­room door on you? Were you a happy child, sir?’

‘I’m not re­ally sure I…’

‘Don’t be scared, sir. Open up. I’m here to lis­ten, not to judge. What about your fa­ther, sir? What were your feel­ings to­wards him? When you were small, and in­no­cent, and des­per­ate for love and pro­tec­tion. What kind of a man was he, sir? Were you afraid of him? Was he a drinker, sir? Was he a very an­gry man?’

‘Er… no. Noth­ing like that, thanks. Could I or­der the pork dumplings, fol­lowed by the…’

‘Don’t mind if I pull up a chair, do you, sir? Thank you. Sir, do you ever worry you’re get­ting old with noth­ing to show for it? Sir, what’s your big­gest re­gret in life?’

In the event, I’m grate­ful to re­port, our waiter at Daddy Bao didn’t even try to Ac­tively Lis­ten to me, or my friend. No con­nec­tion was at­tempted. He sim­ply took our orders, brought out our food, and left us to it. That was it. What a re­lief. He re­ceived the big­gest tip I’ve ever given.

Daddy Bao is a new Tai­wanese restau­rant in south-west London, an off­shoot of Mr Bao in south-east London. Mr Bao has peo­ple queu­ing out of the door, and Daddy Bao may well turn out the same – by 7pm, ev­ery seat in the house was taken. It’s a nice place to be: pretty red lanterns sus­pended from the ceil­ing, Man­darin let­ter­ing daubed across the wall, and busily up­beat, but not in­tru­sive mu­sic in the back­ground. Re­laxed, un­pre­ten­tious, young.

The starters in­cluded golden kim­chi (fiery cab­bage), fried chicken (su­per crunchy), and pork dumplings (bit wet and in­sipid). Ul­ti­mately, though, Daddy Bao is all about – fun­nily enough – the bao. If you’ve never had a bao, think of it as a cross between a burger and a cloud. A bao is a kind of Far Eastern bun, but much lighter than the bun in any Big Mac or ba­con roll. It’s a bright, white, spongy puff of joy. So soft and gen­tle and lov­ing. Imag­ine an ed­i­ble pil­low. A tiny ed­i­ble pil­low.

Spilling out of the tiny ed­i­ble pil­low will be one of a range of thick fill­ings. I tried four of them. The beef brisket (with spring onions, wasabi slaw and co­rian­der) was juicy with a flicker of spice. The pork belly (with pick­les and roasted peanuts) was gor­geously tart. The so-called ‘drunken prawn bao’ (prawns mar­i­nated in beer and fried) I wasn’t so sure about. An awk­ward clash of tex­tures between crunchy and spongy. Imag­ine eat­ing a sand­wich full of Frosties. On the other hand, an apt name – drunken prawn bao –

They braise their tofu with ginger, add kim­chi and crispy onions, and it’s de­li­cious

be­cause as my friend pointed out, bao is ideal food for a han­gover: so carby and ab­sorbent. Daddy Bao doesn’t ac­tu­ally open un­til midday. They should open for break­fast. At week­ends they do a brunch bao with a fried egg in it, but what about the poor, ne­glected func­tion­ing al­co­holic who needs one mid­week?

My favourite bao, un­ex­pect­edly, was the tofu one. The main rea­son I liked it was that it didn’t taste like tofu. Or at least, not tofu as I know it. Tofu as I know it tastes like some­thing you’d use to grout the bath­room. At Daddy Bao, though, they braise their tofu with ginger, add some kim­chi and crispy onions, and it tastes de­li­cious. A proper lit­tle fire­cracker. If you’re a meat eater, and they handed you this with­out telling you what it was, you wouldn’t guess. There can be no higher com­pli­ment.

They don’t do pud­dings, which is a shame – at Mr Bao they do a ‘bao s’more’, which is a bao with melted choco­late and toasted marsh­mal­lows. Still, even with­out pud­ding, Daddy Bao will fill you up, and pretty cheaply, too.

On the whole, re­ally good. Try it. Touch wood, the waiter won’t mis­take him­self for your ther­a­pist.

Above A starter of pork dumplings. Be­low Tofu bao – ‘a proper lit­tle fire­cracker’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.