Sunday, 22 April 2012


Growing up the closest I got to dim sum was some soggy dumplings at a Chinese restaurant in Edinburgh.  And, until recently, I thought that was all that had been on offer in Scotland in the late eighties.  How wrong I was. While I was stuck on chicken chow mein, the Fashionista was making a weekly trip with her family to the backstreets and alleyways of Dundee to savour the traditional joy of dim sum for Sunday Lunch.  Roast beef it is not.  Better? Perhaps.

Nowadays, of course, dim sum is everywhere.  Chains like Ping Pong have brought dim sum to the masses.  And, while these chains do have their place in the grand scheme of things, if the only dim sum you've tried is from there, you really are missing out.  I love the dim sum at Dragon Castle in Elephant and Castle, and there are a couple (literally a couple) of places in Chinatown that are pretty good.  Topping them all though, with a gleaming Michelin star, is Yauatcha.

Although technically a chain, with an outlet in Mumbai, Yauatcha is no ordinary dim sum restaurant. A tea shop upstairs, a dark and trendy restaurant down, we decided to opt for the former, it being a sunny Sunday morning.  There is an almost overbearing theme of bright blue, from the glass at the front running through the internal decor. I am surprised, I like it.  I also loved the low seats which made you feel like you were in a traditional Japanese tea house in Kyoto.

The menu has all the classics you would expect from a dim sum menu, cheung fun, har gow and larger noodle based dishes. The prices start at the reasonable, if a pound more than the equivalent elsewhere, and accelerate quickly. We had said that we were going to be sensible, not too many dishes and give the luxury ones a wide berth, but, as always happens, we quickly convinced ourselves that a treat was in order. 

This is how we ended up ordering the lobster and caviar dumpling.  Expensive at around fourteen quid for three small dumplings.  Worth it? Absolutely.  The lobster tail was sweet, the dumpling lighter than anything I had ever tried (this was a recurring theme) and the caviar completed it perfectly. Excellent.

I had heard so much about the venison puffs that I had to try them.  Now, if the lobster dumplings were light, they were nothing compared to the pastry surrounding the venison.  Hands down the best pastry I have ever tried.

Alongwith the lobster and venison we also ordered some har gaw (a traditional prawn dumpling), nice but not all that much of a step up from other places.  The turnip cake (traditionally made with shredded Chinese radish) came imbued with the flavour of the many wonderful smoky bacon pieces running through it and was delicious.  The mixed mushroom cheung fun was a step up from anything I had tried before. The fried vegetable dumplings were also very good indeed.

We also got a couple of bigger dishes to "fill us up".  The noodles were okay, but a little disappointing.  I suppose something had to be.  The fermented tofu soup which came with rice noodles was a lot better than I had been expecting - fermented tofu is not normally my go to option.

Now, after all that, you would think that we would have been full.  Such is the allure of the cake counter though, I doubt anyone has passed up on dessert.  I had a few macaroons.  I am still trying to understand the craze.  While good, they didn't convert me to the cause.  Probably down to me rather than the macaroons though. The Fashionista had a delicious mango cake which came with a creamy, yet refreshing, ice cream. 

And, after all that, how much do you think we are looking at.  I was a little fearful.  We had really "let rip" at a starred restaurant that had Soho rent to cover. Well it probably helped that we were on the tea, rather than the cocktails (which looked great), but I think that just over thirty quid a head is an absolute steal.  You can easily pay close to that for greasy dumplings with a side of soggy noodles in Chinatown. Don't. Go to Yauatcha.

Yauatcha on Urbanspoon

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