January 2019: We've added colourful New York import Red Farm to the list, along with Ugly Dumpling on Carnaby Street, dim sum legends Din Tai Fung and Kym's: celeb chef Andrew Wong's huge new Chinese restaurant at Bloomberg Arcade.
Whether you’re a dim sum daredevil or a play-it-safe type, you’ll find London’s thriving yum cha scene has something for you – from the hyper-traditional fare at London’s best high-end Chinese joints, to more renegade riffs on the old classics and bargain buns across town. Grab your chopsticks and get stuck in with these tempting Chinese snacks in Chinatown and beyond.
The best dim sum in London
Load up on all the pork baozi (buns) you can handle at this understated spot right in the centre of Soho. Fluffy on the outside, warm, sweet and sticky on the inside, these barbecued delights are the epitome of the perfect pork bun, while the rest of the dim sum menu is delicious and arrives quickly.
Venue says From the heart of Northern China to the heart of London; Our chefs are famed for the authenticity of their cooking! Discover Sohos favourite
You may not get the full range of traditional dim sum at Bun House, but the soft, pillowy buns more than make up for it. There are seven varieties on the menu: try them all, but don’t miss the scary-sounding but delicious dark-chocolate-and-pig’s-blood option for dessert. Collect from the busy takeaway counter or wait for one of a handful of first come, first served tables.
First launched in Taiwan, this international chain is known for its all-day dim sum, particularly its xiao long bao (soup dumplings). Served in bamboo baskets, these delicate steamed buns come with fillings such as spicy pork, chilli crab and soft prawn. The other dumpling varieties are well worth sampling too: don’t leave without trying the seriously smooth chilli-prawn wontons, served in a sweet, vinegary sauce.
This popular Chinatown hangout is more traditional than new kid Din Tai Fung, but shares the same signature dish: soup dumplings. (The classic, subtle pork version is our favourite.) Despite the name, there's more to this place than just dumplings: the terrific fried turnip cake and quivering cheung fun are worth ordering too.
A Michelin-starred Cantonese trendsetter, Hakkasan remains the benchmark against which all high-end Chinese restaurants should be judged. It’s one for the big spenders, although you don’t need to re-mortgage for its ambrosial dim sum: who could resist the crispy duck rolls, quail and basil dumplings or grilled morel buns? Sexy, moody and somehow still cool, even after all these years.
Like the original Hutong in Hong Kong, this London offshoot is a glitzy, high-end Chinese with magnificent views, plate glass surrounds, ersatz Old Beijing decor and a spiced-up regional menu. Dim sum platters are a more delicate option (especially at lunchtime), when items such as cod and seaweed dumplings with tobiko do the business.
Celeb chef Andrew Wong’s vibrant restaurant at the Bloomberg Arcade doesn’t technically do dim sum, but it does have a snacky small-plates menu worthy of a trip. The trio of soft bao, served DIY-style, is a must-try – fill a pillowy bun with juicy lamb and dip it into the delightful sesame-peanut sauce.
It may be famed for its superlative daytime views and its Beijing duck, but Min Jiang also does a good line in classic dim sum. You won’t find any challenging ducks’ tongues here, but items such as steamed seafood and pumpkin dumplings exceed expectations. High-end stuff with stellar service and prices to match.
A former pop-up offering dim sum-style dining for local hipsters, MNTD’s watchword is definitely not ‘authenticity’. Still, the dumplings themselves are excellent, with handmade pastry and irreproachable fillings – although veggie items such as aubergine and sesame ‘potstickers’ often trump their meaty counterparts. Get stuck into the saké-based cocktail list while you’re killing time.
Dark and swanky, with a jazzy cocktail bar to boot, Pearl Liang is good for lunchtime dim sum in ‘new Paddington’. There are prawn dumplings laced with wasabi and plates of steamed ox-tripe cut with ginger and spring onion, although our current faves are the fried octopus cakes studded with crunchy water chestnut.
Decked out in lavish oriental style, Phoenix Palace is a favourite of international businessmen, but its easy-going bustle also suits local families who crowd in for high-quality excellent-value dim sum. Steamed dumplings and other dependables sit alongside ‘briny’ pork croquettes and black egg congee with salty pork – all bursting with fresh tastes and textures.
This first London offshoot of the cult New York dim sum restaurant is in a nice little Covent Garden spot that’s styled like a red-and-white British farmhouse. The wacky creations are just as cute: dumplings are plated up colourfully in a row, while spring rolls are styled into sculptures. Try the super-crispy egg rolls stuffed with layers of pastrami.
A stalwart of London’s dim sum scene, Royal China serves up consistently good Cantonese cooking, from beef balls and lacy-edged taro croquettes to more innovative ideas including steamed crab and spinach dumplings. Enjoy the whole shebang in the gilded splendour of RC’s black-and-gold lacquered Queensway dining room, or find them at branches across the capital including Canary Wharf and Baker Street.
As the exclusive clubby name suggests, this premier link in the Royal China chain has an air of quiet five-star elegance, pointed up by the faint tinkling of a piano. The food is consummate Cantonese stuff, including a line-up of creative dim sum – think sesame prawn rolls with mango or goose web in abalone sauce.
Though it opened an east London branch in 2017, it’s this location, at the Dorsett Hotel in She-Bu, that Shikumen fans still love the best. Food-wise, top marks go to the exquisitely crafted dim sum (from the signature xiao long bao to sophisticated open parcels of scallop siu mai topped with tobiko), while the dining room reflects the classy comfort of its hotel setting.
A street-food stall turned colourful/cute permanent restaurant on Carnaby Street, Ugly Dumpling specialises in, you guessed it: dumplings. The best of the menu, somewhat unexpectedly, is the vegan spinach and tofu number. Filled with fresh spinach and dotted with nutty sesame, expect a juicy little pocket of veg; a warm, umami smack.
The City branch of the upscale Soho spot looks a bit like an extremely glamorous spaceship – one very long room that, as you walk through it, seems to go on forever. All of the dim sum is excellent, but the venison puffs (stuffed with rich, dark meat) or the plump scallop siu mai are a must.
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