After our disappointment up the Shard at Hutong, I've found somewhere in London that does great, affordable, authentic dim sum: Royal China's Dim Sum outpost on Baker Street. Okay so it is not one of those flashy, pretty restaurants I normally review (it is one of those, dark, traditional Chinese restaurants with low lights and white table cloths, so I'm sorry the pictures are not as clear as usual), but when I was invited along to review their lunchtime dim sum menu, we were treated to delivery after delivery of dumpling goodness.
While Royal China does have a full bar, we opted for a soothing lunchtime pot of Jasmine tea, that drunk out of small china cups, lasted us the entire meal, went with everything, and I think helped us pace through the dumpling mountain! After a lot of deliberation over the massive menu, we decided to order one of each of every dish we fancied, and then see where we wanted to go from there.
We started with two dishes you would not perhaps automatically think of when you think of dim sum (am I the only one who conjures a mental image of steamers piled high?): honey roast pork puffs, and deep fried prawn dumplings. The pork puffs are a dish you really can't miss out on when you visit: rich, flavourful meat encased in slightly sweet, and beautifully flaky pastry. Each dish comes in threes by the way, so plan accordingly. The deep fried prawn dumplings are also a must order; crisp pockets of clean, juicy prawn flavour, with a great Asian mayo for dipping, along with the two wonderful (and punchy) chilli oils on the table for every dish.
Next, we had some more traditional dumplings. We chose two seafood options: prawns with coriander, and scallop. I have to say that the prawn dumplings were a bit disappointing. Don't get me wrong, they were utterly delicious, but their shape was not very practical. They stuck to the paper, and fell to pieces whenever you tried to pick them up with chopsticks. I had to resort to my fingers, and needless to say they were rather hot. So, perhaps don't order those. Instead, get the scallop dumplings which are equally as delicious, but easily hold their shape even once you've taken a bite out of them!
To finish off our savoury dishes, we had what actually has to be my favourite up there with the pork puffs: big, fluffy steamed buns stuffed with the most wonderful chopped chicken and mushroom mince mixture. Honestly, everything we had at Royal China was utterly delicious, but this had to be one of the unexpected stand out dishes (we only ordered them as we were looking for something with chicken!)
We were pretty full at that point, but went for a trio of sweets: a very peculiar grapefruit and mango tapioca pudding, custard tarts and something called lotus buns, which looked very pretty in the picture. My favourite was the tapioca pudding. It came as a creamy soup type dish, served with an Asian soup spoon, with pieces of tapioca floating around in it. I know I'm not making it sound great, but if you like tropical fruits trust me and try it. Once you get over the fact it is so different to anything we're used to in the West, it is utterly delicious and again one of my favourite dishes of the meal. The custard tarts were perfectly executed but not really my thing, and I as unfortunately disappointed to find the lotus buns were filled with lotus seed paste. Okay, that was what I had expected, but on this occasion I discovered that it tastes like peanuts, sadly one of the few foods I really can't stand.
There are Royal China spots all over London, so find one near you, grab a couple of friends and enjoy a simply, unfussy lunch of utterly delicious dishes brought to your table as and when they're ready. While I do love a bright, colourful, Instagramable restaurant, sometimes it is nice to enjoy a meal where the food, and just the food is the focus.