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.
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The best dim sum in London
Never tried xiao long bau? Sometimes called ‘soup dumplings’, these Shanghai beauties are steamed parcels containing both filling and ‘broth’ – so be sure to pop them in your mouth in one go. The classic pork version is our favourite, while dim sum fans will also like DL’s moreish fried turnip cake and quivering cheung fun.
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 oh-so cool.
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.
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.
One of the few venues in town still offering a dim-sum trolley service, this old-timer is about as close as you’ll get to the frenetic pace of lunchtime in Hong Kong. It looks the part, too, with hanging lanterns adorning its huge red-and-gold dining rooms. Steamed dumplings, deep-fried rolls, roast meats, congees – they’re all here.
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.
A stalwart of London’s dim sum scene, Royal China’s original Queensway branch serves up some of the capital’s best Cantonese treats, 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 dining room.
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.