When to go: When you’re looking for grub that will light your fire without burning a hole in your pocket.
What to have: If you’re feeling adventurous, cold pig’s ear, tongue and tripe; otherwise, a lustrous gong bao tofu and long beans with marinated minced pork.
Baiwei means ‘a hundred flavours’ in Chinese, and it’s an apt name for this cosy place serving authentic, home-style Sichuan, Hunan and northern dishes. Along with Barshu, Ba Shan and Baozi Inn, it’s one of the Gang of Four masterminded by menu consultant Fuchsia Dunlop, Britain’s leading authority on Sichuan cooking. The key to these cuisines is flavour, in very robust doses. Dishes from the southwestern province use dried chillies, Sichuan pepper and fragrant garlic in near-industrial quantities; stay away if you like mild flavours or can’t abide chilli-fire. At Baiwei, 100 flavours means 100 ways to dazzle your taste buds. Extra bonus: uncommonly friendly service.Read more
When to go: If you know your way around a Cantonese menu, and want something with more kick.
What to have: Classic Sichuan dishes such as fish-fragrant aubergines or dong po pork.
Since opening in 2006, Barshu has done much to popularise Sichuan cuisine in London. The strong flavours of slow-cooked dong po pork knuckle in chilli oil is typical of the dishes that give your taste buds an invigorating whack. Spice lovers we may be, but we still recommend avoiding the dishes marked as hot, because here they really mean it. Barshu remains an exceedingly charming venue, its decor modelled on that of an old Beijing teahouse, complete with elaborate wood carvings and tasselled lanterns. Its owners also now run two other restaurants nearby, Ba Shan which champions northern dishes, and the cheap Baozi Inn café.Read more
When to go: When you feel like putting on your glad rags and splurging on something decadent.
What to have: Start with a platter of perfectly turned out dim sum, then see what takes your fancy from the list of mains.
The original branch founded (then sold) by Alan Yau still remains an iconic venue for smart lunchtime dim sum or an evening cocktail or two. The A-listers may have moved on, but it still attracts a crowd who like to flash their cash. Make sure you peruse the tea menu and if you’re after a more reasonably-priced meal, the set lunches make a good choice.Read more
When to go: When you’re planning to splash the cash on a love interest.
What to have: The de-boned and deep-fried lamb ribs are tender and packed with flavour.
Halfway up The Shard, this glitzy Hong Kong import offers high-end Chinese food with some of the best views in London. The smoulderingly stylish interior, with plenty of dark wood and red lanterns, makes Hutong a sophisticated dining spot for anyone aiming to impress their guests. Dishes are no less showy with the likes of deep-fried softshell crabs arriving in a huge bowl of fiery red chillies – the latter purely for decoration. Southwestern and northern Chinese dishes less commonly seen on London menus are the main attraction, but there are also more familiar dishes such as crispy duck or steamed dumplings to choose from on the lunchtime dim sum list.Read more
When to go: Get down to business with a round-table dim sum banquet. What to have: Classic dim sum attracts Sunday crowds, and cross-overs like steamed wasabi prawn dumplings are worth trying too. If you like Phoenix Palace… Min Jiang, Red Pocket Extensive both in size and menu, Phoenix Palace has over many years gained a rep as a reliable venue to take Eastern business clients. It’s not all suits and clenched-buttocked conformity, though: the ample round tables and lavishly decorated interior also accommodate wedding banquets and birthday parties. Menus for both lunchtime dim sum (a speciality) and evening are as quirky or quotidian as you like: from (excellent) har gau prawn dumplings to ‘cuttlefish cheese kiev ball with almond’, and from fruity sweet and sour chicken to kangaroo in black pepper and honey sauce. Heavens, there’s even a vegan set meal.
When to go: Get down to business with a round-table dim sum banquet.
What to have: Classic dim sum attracts Sunday crowds, and cross-overs like steamed wasabi prawn dumplings are worth trying too.
Extensive both in size and menu, Phoenix Palace has over many years gained a rep as a reliable venue to take Eastern business clients. It’s not all suits and clenched-buttocked conformity, though: the ample round tables and lavishly decorated interior also accommodate wedding banquets and birthday parties. Menus for both lunchtime dim sum (a speciality) and evening are as quirky or quotidian as you like: from (excellent) har gau prawn dumplings to ‘cuttlefish cheese kiev ball with almond’, and from fruity sweet and sour chicken to kangaroo in black pepper and honey sauce. Heavens, there’s even a vegan set meal.Read more
When to go: For a lunchtime dalliance à deux with dumplings.
What to have: Look to the dim sum specials list for innovative treats (crab and spinach steamed dumplings, maybe), and don’t miss the black sesame peanut crumbles to finish.
After all these years, the original Royal China branch still holds its position at the top table of London’s dim sum venues. Enter its glossy black-lacquered interior, where curling waves and geese in full flight embellish the walls, and deliberate over the menu of mouthwatering snacks. Glutinous rice in lotus leaf (wonderfully aromatic, full of delicious titbits) will provide ballast for such delicacies as honey roast pork puffs (divine pastry), scallop dumplings, and inspired creations from the specials list. The full menu too has its attractions, including classic stewed pork belly hotpot.Read more
When to go: The night time is the right time – when you’re desirous of dumplings and razzle-dazzle after dark.
What to have: A signature cocktail, and a luxe dim sum – mushroom spring roll with black truffle, say, or scallop and edamame crystal dumplings.
A pioneer of day-and-night dim sum, Yauatcha also broke with Chinatown tradition by serving the snacks in sensual, stylish surroundings reminiscent of a nightclub. Head for the ground-floor tea room to sample exotic teas, pâtisserie and East-West fusion desserts, but descend to the basement for a slinky vibe, seductive drinks, good-looking staff, and beautiful plates of delicate treats. Main courses (steamed halibut with chilli and salted radish, for instance) hold allure, as do the renowned cocktails, but it’s the pricey, enticing dim sum that draw the oohs and ahhs: from venison puffs to lobster dumplings with tobiko caviar.Read more