Beijing Dumpling is no oversized operation. It’s tucked on relatively quiet Lisle Street, the narrow facade taken up by – you guessed it – a large glass window behind which female chefs prepare the day’s dumplings. Despite the name, there are only a handful of dumplings and two preparations: steamed or boiled and served with broth, with fillings ranging from pork and crabmeat to spicy chicken or vegetables. There are no pan-fried delights here.
Xiao long bao, which originate in Shanghai, are lumped under ‘Beijing dumplings’ on the menu – and the ones we tried were unworthy of the name. The skins were dry and thick instead of moist and thin; the filling of pork was good, but the soup was scant. Much better were the vegetarian dumplings, stained light green from vegetable juice, filled with a flavoursome filling of carrots, wood ear mushrooms and vermicelli, served in a light-tasting broth.
The rest of the menu offers no real surprises if you’ve eaten in Chinatown, though here there’s the added bonus of all-you-can-eat hotpot for £20 a head. A dish of fish-fragrant aubergines was well executed, the aubergines silky and well-seasoned, if a bit on the oilier side (as this dish tends to be).
Service is adequate, with varying degrees of attentiveness – our teacups were regularly filled, but we had to ask for the bill twice as staff wound down for the night by chatting near the service station. Beijing Dumpling is not the worst place to dine in Chinatown, but it needs to do much better to be worthy of its name.