BAO King’s Cross pays homage to Asian-style Western cafes

London’s BAO King’s Cross restaurant has a wood-paneled interior designed by Macaulay Sinclair and based on Taiwanese and Japanese cafes in a Western style.


The 188-square-meter space, housed in a mixed-use building in Pancras Square, includes a restaurant and bar, a bakery counter and workshop, as well as a headquarters.

The double-height restaurant has a mezzanine lined with wood

The oldest Taiwanese Western-style cafe, Bolero, as well as the Japanese, reported on their menu and interior. catatens, a type of classroom that was popular in the mid-20th century.

Kissatens serve Yōshoku cuisine, an interpretation of Western food viewed through Asian lenses. Typical dishes include katsu sandwiches, omelet omelettes – made from fried rice and fried scrambled eggs – and a hamburger steak.

Wooden serving counter and shiny red floor at London's Macaulay Sinclair
The patisserie next to the entrance extends into the bar

“It’s the kind of place that’s disappearing fast, similar to pie and porridge shops in London,” BAO founder and creative director Erchen Chang told Dezeen.

“But it’s a legacy that creates a new wave of nostalgia. The Bolero Restaurant was the first and now the oldest Western-style cafe in Taiwan to have such a history. It seems like time is frozen – a good way. I love the decor, the old waiters and mostly the old to me. “

Wood counter with coffee machine in Cafe Bao
Custom wooden and glazed screens offer views of the kitchen

Chang and the team at BAO worked with Nottingham Macaulay Sinclair create an interior that evokes the “nostalgic homeliness” of traditional Taiwanese cuisines, houses and restaurants.

“All of our restaurants are interpretations of culture in Taiwan,” said Chang, who co-founded the restaurant chain with Shing Tat Chung and Wai Ting Chung.

“We like to use this as a starting and reference point for our restaurants, and although our goal is to create that experience that transports you, not to create a direct copy of the references we take.”

A wooden display counter at London’s Macaulay Sinclair restaurant
The pastries are on display in front of the front of the space

When customers enter the restaurant, they are greeted by a bakery counter that displays a range of handmade pastries that they can bring or enjoy at the restaurant.

The counter extends to the bar and overlooks the dining room, set with simple square tables and dining chairs by Finnish brand Artek.

Light enters through large floor-to-ceiling windows and stairs with accentuated white colors leading restaurants upstairs to a mezzanine overlooking the double-height restaurant.

At the upper level, guests can learn how to make steamed buns that give the restaurant its name in classes run by BAO bakers.

Confectioners work at Cafe Bao
Diners can watch the chefs at work

The double-height space is wrapped in wooden paneling, polished plaster surfaces and custom-made wooden screens with glazed paneling.

On the ground floor behind the bar, screens separate the kitchen from the restaurant, while on the mezzanine floor they allow snacks to peek into the workshop space.

Solid and veneered iroko wood is used throughout the restaurant, finished with a mixture of wood stains and varnish, while the floor is finished with red epoxy paint in a glossy color that BAO calls “Bauhaus red”.

Dining room with white staircase and paper lanterns in London's Macaulay Sinclair restaurant
Isamu Noguchi’s paper lanterns hang in the dining room

“Wooden and glazed screens have been set up to be a playful but functional barrier between kitchen and restaurant space,” said Mike Sinclair, who co-founded Macaulay Sinclair with John Macaulay along with John Macaulay.

“Glazing provides thoughtful views into the theater kitchen, while flexible openings help in operational communication.”

Dining chairs by the wood-paneled walls in Cafe Bao
The floor is finished with red epoxy paint

All the carpentry located in the restaurant and workshop area is made to measure, and the paper lanterns hanging above the dining room are by Japanese designer Isamu Noguchi.

The glass exhibition space below the museum-style staircase displays some of the bao buns and merchandise from the restaurant.

A white staircase and wood-paneled walls in London’s Macaulay Sinclair restaurant
A white lacquered staircase leads to the mezzanine

Macaulay Sinclair also worked at the nearby Dishoom restaurant in King’s Cross, located in a former rail transit shed and channeling Mumbai in the mid-20th century.

It’s a photo John Carey.

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