Rumour has it that the best dim sum in London is to be had at the Royal China Group, so I was only too happy to pop along to the flagship Baker Street branch when they asked me to review their spread.
Dim sum is one of China’s worst kept culinary secrets – you might think you’re content with sweet and sour pork balls and some egg fried rice, but if that’s the extent of your knowledge when it comes to Chinese cuisine, you’re missing out on an amazing experience! And when you finally get yourself to a dim sum place (especially one as good as this) you’ll realise you’ve been in the dark for far too long…
The Royal China Group has locations all across London, including the aforementioned Baker Street branch (Baker Street is also home to the Royal China Club, the premium restaurant in the chain), as well as Canary Wharf, Queensway, Fulham and Harrow-on-the-Hill. Each restaurant has its own dedicated dim sum chef, and serves dim sum from noon to 5m – and believe me, the tables fill up fast, so if you want a seat, book ahead, or get there early!
One of the most popular dishes on the dim sum menu is cha siu bao, or steamed roast pork buns, but don’t miss out on these gorgeous honey roast pork puffs, pictured above. While cha siu bao are traditionally served in a sugary, steamed, marshmallowy bread bun (second image), the pork puffs have the same sweet and savoury roast pork filling encased in flaky, buttery pastry. These didn’t last long!
If you’re a fan of the Japanese gyoza, you should definitely try the original Chinese version. Thicker dough wrappers and a more amalgamated centre portion gives these a chewier texture – and they’re just as delicious as the Japanese ones!
At dim sum, the idea is that all the guests select their favourites from a menu of tiny dishes – almost exactly like Spanish tapas or Greek / Turkish mezze. But don’t forget to check out Royal China’s scrumptious noodle dishes too, to bulk out your meal – we ordered the Soy Beef Ho Fun, above, and it was one of the tastiest noodle dishes I’ve had in a Chinese restaurant for a long time. Wide strips of noodles, tossed in soy sauce with generous strips of sliced beef, accompanied by spring onions, beansprouts, and topped with an egg, this was a great way to keep the meal flowing while we waited for various dishes to arrive.
If you’re ordering dim sum, you need to move away from your comfort zone somewhat – otherwise you’ll miss some of the most delicious and intriguing dishes! These stuffed bean curd rolls were a case in point – earthy, wood-scented mushrooms with prawns, encased in a stiff, chewy casing, they were unlike anything you’ll get from your local takeaway.
Also, this fried dough cheung fun – a slippery noodle layer encasing a spear of fried dough, served with a sweet soy sauce dip. The texture contrast is what makes this dish so moreish, and again, so very unlike anything you might be used to if you have a western palette!
We also tried the Chinese rice pot, which was a pottery lidded dish stuffed with delicate rice, topped with corn-fed bone-in chicken, mushrooms and Chinese sausage, again served with a tasty sweet dip.
You also have to give the steamed meatballs a try (succulent beef with preserved orange peel and spring onions) – and make sure to round off the meal with egg custard tarts served with Chinese tea!
Three or four dishes will be more than enough to fill you up at a dim sum lunch, so pace yourself! The Royal China menu has most of its items priced at £3-4, although some items are more expensive (and the large noodle dishes, which are big portions, are around £8-9).
Also, whatever you do, don’t forget to check out the cocktail menu! I can highly recommend the Royal China Martini!
Head to the website at www.theroyalchina.co.uk to find out more about the restaurant group, find a branch near you, and to look at the menus. Royal China also do a more traditional ala carte menu, as well as tasting experiences as well! Check out the dim sum menu here, and try not to drool on your screen!
The meal I enjoyed at Royal China was complimentary – the views in this review are my own.