It’s no great secret that even seasoned Londoners can find Chinatown a little tricky to negotiate. A winding mass of cobbled streets tucked behind Leicester Square, the chaotic hustling, alleys lined with constantly competing noodle bars and glaring red lanterns on every corner make for a bewildering experience most evenings during the week.
This is further complicated when you’re venturing into Chinatown with something specific in mind – dim sum, for example. So, given it’s National Dim Sum Week (apparently it’s a thing), we’ve put our heads together to bring you five destinations to indulge in the Cantonese dish that won’t disappoint.
1. Plum Valley – for a sophisticated haven in Chinatown
With its modern spin on traditional Cantonese cuisine, this intimate Chinatown restaurant aims to serve dim sum’s traditional flavours with Western polish. While the Asian staple is typically served as a breakfast bite, Plum Valley and its seven dedicated dim sum chefs offer an all-day menu with Chinese, Japanese and Thai takes on the classic. Try its special afternoon dim sum tasting menu, which comes with a glass of fizz and authentic flower tea. Start with the scallop and spinach dumplings, followed by crispy roast pork dumplings and finish with a sweet treat, like the signature cream custard bun.
2. Yauatcha Soho – for lively fusion flavours
Yauatcha Soho combines the techniques of European cooking with Asian ingredients for a contemporary Cantonese experience. Separating its dim sum menus based on cooking method (steamed, pan-fried, baked or grilled) the Michelin-starred restaurant doesn’t serve dim sum by halves. If you prefer yours steamed, Yauatcha serves an open-topped wheat flour dumpling stuffed with seasonal favourites like mutton and pumpkin for high summer. Better still, try pan-fried sweet venison puff, topped with sesame seeds. It’s guaranteed to satisfy with its rich, meaty flavours.
3. Hakkasan Mayfair – for Asian fine dining with flair
Nestled on Mayfair’s Bruton Street, Hakkasan Mayfair offers a respite from the city with its decadent subterranean dining hall and lively bar, perfect for any dim sum and cocktail indulgence. With its afternoon pairing menu of tea and dim sum, the choices are endless. Go for a fruit blend tea such as the Coco Passion, a mix of coconut, passion fruit and almond syrup, or keep it simple with a refreshing cup of Dragon’s Well green tea. As for the dim sum, dive into the black truffle and chicken roll or stay veggie with a crispy bean curd and red rice Cheung fun.
4. Duck & Rice Pub, Soho – for a relaxed, entertaining experience
While a Soho pub might not seem like a typical go-to for dim sum, this eclectic eatery on Berwick Street is known for its Chinese kitchen. With head chef Hoong and a passion for Cantonese bites, you won’t be disappointed by the pub’s warm atmosphere, sociable set-up and zingy oriental flavours. Try something different like the goji berry and baby spinach dumplings, or add some meat to your menu with prawn and pork shumai. Whatever you choose, don’t forget to complete your meal with a classic British ale.
5. Min Jiang – for sweet treats, cocktails and a killer view
Located on the tenth floor of Kensington’s Royal Garden Hotel, this fashionable hotspot offers both a sizeable dim sum menu and picturesque views of the city. With creative dim sum twists, like the pan-fried lobster bun or the poached Beijing dumpling with chicken, prawn, Chinese chives and dried Shiitake fillings, expect to celebrate the dish in style. If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, sip on a Midnight Lotus cocktail (Havana rum, pineapple juice and fresh lime) and order the Sugee Cake paired with coconut ice cream and peanut brittle as you soak up London’s illuminated skyline.