Monday, 15 October 2012

Royal China (Baker Street)

Going for weekend dim sum at Royal China on Baker Street is a London institution. It's not necessarily for the most discerning of Chinese diners, nor is it technically the best dim sum in town.

There are plenty of tourists but there are also Chinese families, hipsters and even the odd celeb (Jarvis Cocker getting stuck into some dumplings) so even if there is better dim sum in a car park in Croydon or every second Wednesday down an alleyway in Earls Court, this is still a fun, diverse London experience.

Long before Russell Norman, they wrote the book on no reservations. It’s egalitarian though; you take a numbered ticket and wait. Covers must exceed 200 I’m sure, and so the turnover is quick. You may see larger tables seated before you – the queue looked horrendous but we waited maybe 5-10 mins on a Saturday at about half three.

Honey pork puffs are one of my guilty pleasures. They’re obviously a very Western-friendly ‘entry level’ dim sum, but I love them all the same. Sweet in a way that few cuisines can (and should be able to) get away with, the combination of crumbling pastry and sweet porky filling is a winning one. Dim sum for the Gregg’s generation.

Prawn and chive dumplings and beef cheung fun are good. The texture of dim sum is something I’ve previously struggled with a little. The Chinese seem to have a steely propensity to handle the slithery and slimy. My initial reaction is a slight shudder, but then the fillings come through and save the day. Both solid dishes here. 

Char sui buns are the kings of dim sum for me. I could happily order 5 options of these and walk away as satisfied and accomplished as if I’d tried the most adventurous dishes on the menu. Pillowy buns torn open to reveal pieces of sweet, barbecued pork – this is a thing of beauty. Royal China’s version isn’t the best I’ve had (the meat component could have been more generous), but can you really have a bad one?

Our final dish (we had dinner in a few hours) were some deep fried duck rolls. These weren’t deep fried like spring rolls, but effectively battered sausages you’d get from the chippy except with some hoi sin tinged duck inside. The artery-clogging ability of these would be a challenge to equal - an absolute heart attack on a plate. Not that it stopped us wolfing them down.  

Service is standard Chinese: humorously brusque in that way which is somehow endearing and tolerated. If the servers were French, we’d be declaring an end to the entente cordiale. Rude, or at best, indifferent service is perversely one of my favourite things about Chinese restaurants; amusing and yet fair in its indiscriminateness. A bit like South Park.

Possibly the best thing about the experience is the ease of it. It’s super cheap (less than £20 including tea and service), very quick and thus perfect for a hangover. 

Food – 7/10 
Drink – 7/10 (tea spot on, otherwise I'd stick to beer) 
Service - 8/10 - exactly what it needs to be 
Value – 9/10 
Tap water tales – none asked, none offered 
Staff Hotness – 4/10 (beleaguered and frantic is not a good look)

Royal China on Urbanspoon 

Square Meal

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