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Thursday 31 December 2009

Seeking the Best Dim Sum in London - Royal China @ Queensway

Royal China @ Queensway

I have been coming to Royal China (RC) for the last 12 years, and have nearly always enjoyed my dim sum there. My preferred branch is their flagship restaurant on Queensway, and the only place where I can have one of my most loved dim sum dishes “Baked Seafood Rice in Creamy Portuguese Sauce”. 

Hakkasan is another favourite dim sum joint, however I find myself going less frequently to the West End as the years go by. Dim sum at Hakkasan is a completely different ball game (just as good but in a different way), and about 50% dearer.

I went to Royal China last Sunday on 27th December 09 and was a bit surprised to find the place with no queue at 1pm. On the one hand, I was pleased that I would not have to wait for a table (RC does not take bookings for dim sum at weekends), but on the other, I felt that it lacked the crazy and vibrant atmosphere seen at the weekends. 

Staff were also rather uninterested, looking tired and sometimes being almost brusque. I was surprised to experience this considering RC charges 12.5% for service charges, and the level of service is usually good. 



Royal China’s black and gold décor is surprisingly elegant. Despite the lack of windows, the Queensway branch does not feel oppressive but comfortable and roomy.

The most successful dim sum dishes we ordered were:

“Prawn & Chive Dumplings” @ £3.15 – these were as good as ever with the rice wrapper being silken and very delicate and the chives filling delicious.


“Pork and Radish Dumplings” @ £2.65 – I love white radish (daikon), and the addition of peanuts makes this one of my favourite dumplings.

“Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf” @ £3.50 – with a delicious filling of chicken and mushrooms, encased in sticky rice, and wrapped up in lotus leaves, this steamed dim sum is stodgy but well flavoured.


“Royal China Cheung Fun” @ £3.60 – I normally order the prawn version but as a friend wanted to try the beef cheung fun, we opted for this dish which contains one of each, prawn, beef and char siu pork. As usual, the cheung fun wrapper was delicate, silken and contrasted beautifully with the meaty fillings.

“Ho Fun Noodles with Pork and Enoki Mushrooms” @ £8 – I hardly ever have noodles with my dim sum, however I was glad that we order it. It was an excellent dish and accompanied our other dim sum choices well.

“Baked Seafood Rice with Creamy Portuguese Sauce” @ £9.60 – I haven’t yet discovered what this yellow creamy sauce is made from but it is utterly scrumptious, to the point that I dream about it. Meaty scallops, prawns, squid and fish are mixed with egg fried rice and topped with the creamy Portuguese sauce. A “must” on any visits to RC Queensway.

The less successful dim sum dishes we ordered were:

“Prawn & Coriander Dumpling” @ £2.65 – the rice wrapper was unusually thick on this occasion and I struggled to taste any coriander in the dumpling. 

“Roast Pork Bun” @ £2.65 – I love this and, as with Cheung Fun and Seafood Rice, order them on every visit. This time, the dumplings had considerably shrunk in size and the char siu pork filling was rather ungenerous.

“Yam Paste & Pork Dumplings” @ £2.65 – I ordered this in error (I had meant to order the pan fried turnip paste with dried meats which is sensational) and unluckily they were rather greasy and nothing special.

“Fried Mixed Meat Dumpling” @ £2.65 – again this was slightly greasy and lacking in filling. I struggle to find anything positive to comment on this one.

“Roast Pork Puff” @ £2.65 - I normally enjoy these triangular beauties similar to Brazilian & Portuguese snacks, but unfortunately this was another disappointing choice as the puffs were served stone cold and tasted a bit tired.

I normally come out of RC feeling really pleased with the food and overall experience. I have to admit that on this occasion, I was disappointed as some of the dishes were not as good as previously and the staff had a tired and unfriendly look about them. 

I still enjoyed the Baked Seafood Rice, the Cheung Fun and a couple of other steamed dumplings though so I hope that coming 2010, RC will pick up again and standards will go back to where they were.

The total bill came to £74.40 including service and Chinese tea for 4 people @ £1.20 per person. At £18.60 per person I believe this is still a good value meal in London.

Verdict – Variable quality dim sum and unfriendly staff made my latest visit to Royal China a disappointing one. Some star dishes and very reasonable prices warrant a “revisit” which I will report in the very near future.

Royal China on Urbanspoon


  1. Sadly, I'm going to have to agree with your review. On our last visit (just before Xmas), the dim sum was very mediocre and service was just plain awful. Never again.

  2. Not been here in years but I think Phoenix Palace and Pearl Liang are better bets for dim sum at a similar price.

  3. Dim sum is just what I feel like on a day like today... usually I would go to Yauatcha but can't afford it in a January.

    Interested to hear where people suggest for good (cheap) dim sum... obviously Royal China is a bit of a miss now and glad to be forewarned by your review.

    A Chinese friend took me to one at the bottom of a Holiday Inn near Canary Wharf once which was more than vibrant and very very cheap but haven't been back. Wonder if anyone else has and if is still good.

  4. Portugese sauce .... hmmm. From memory, it is a Macau speciality (hence connection to HK) which has Goan influences (hence the Portugese colonial connection). Essentially, it is a bechamel type sauce made spicy with curry powder and typically, evaporated milk (a brand like Three Carnations) is used which gives more richness and a distinct taste.

    Saveur did a feature article on Macau cuisine a while back. Let me check it out for you (I should have a hard copy here in London) and see if a recipe could be located!

    On the subject of good dim sum in London, I used to like going to Royal China Club in St John's Wood but it was closed down a few months ago. I wonder if the Royal China Club (NB not Royal China) in Baker Street is any good?

  5. Portugese sauce recipe - this was found via google and is representative:


  6. Saveur article on Macau (note to self: Americans spell "Macao"!):


    Issue #33 (quite an old one ... still looking through my hard copies. Might have lost it. Current issue is #125)

    They don't seem to have a recipe for Portugese sauce ...

  7. @ Su-lin - yes, I remember seeing your voting on Urbanspoon and was curious to read your review but I haven't seen one yet on T&T. Are you planning to post one? I was so disappointed with The Royal China as I always enjoyed the dim sum there.

    @ Mr Noodles - I went to Pearl Liang last year but didn't think it was that great, although when i got there, or should i say, when i finally managed to find it, it was closing so we rushed through it. The Phoenix Palace sounds very good, I also read a positive review on Noodle Cappriciosa, I will check it on your site too. Thanks.

    @ Tom - last time i was jogging along the canal to Canary Wharf, i found a Royal China there too! Maybe that is the one you went?!

    I was disappointed with Royal China, but it might have been a one off because they are pretty good.

    I will be trying the Phoenix Palace which apparently is quite good. I love dim sum, particularly at weekends, it is the perfect brunch for me.

    I went to Yuatcha once, I didn't think it was as good as Hakkasan which in my opinion is superb. Service can be a bit uninterested at times and £2 for Chinese tea per person every time they change the tea pot is quite steep. The food is fantastic though, expect to pay about £60 for two people drinking Chinese tea only!

    @ Louise - wow Louise, thank you very much for looking into this for me! Macau was a Portuguese colony so it makes perfect sense.

    I have looked at these links, I think the first one is pretty close, I will try this at home and report back:

    200ml or more fresh milk (for richer flavour can use evaporated milk)
    175ml coconut milk
    1 tsp salt
    0.5 - 1 tsp chilli powder

    I wonder how they get it so creamy though? I think they might use some corn flour.

    I read some interesting articles online from Saveur but never read the magazine itselt. I have a subscription with Gourmet Magazine but received a letter recently saying that it had folded!!

    Thanks again for looking into this for me, and happy new year!

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  8. I was at Royal China Queensway and thought it was way overpriced.

    The service was friendly enough and the quality good but I'll revert to New World, Gerard Place in Soho.

    I prefer Dim Sum places with trolleys.

  9. Hi Warren,

    Thanks for stopping by. I think RC Queensway is more expensive than most dim sum places in Chinatown but I never minded paying a little more for better quality - having said that as you read in my review I was disappointed this time.

    I went to New World about 15 years ago for dim sum and i didn't think the quality was good there. It might have changed since then, 15 years is long time for any restaurant, so maybe i should return for another dim sum visit.

    I find the dim sum from trolleys sometimes are not as fresh as they could have been.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  10. everyone always raves about Royal China, i dont know why bt i was never a fan of it. i've been going to Mandarin Kitchen (across the street from it) for the past 15 years i think. and Poon's is another fave. sorry you had a bad experience at Royal China this time round.

  11. Hi Shayma, i have always loved the Royal China, and i hope my bad experience there was a one off. I will check Mandarin Kitchen and Poon's though as i have never been to any of them and i am always looking for new and good places to try. Thank you for your recommendation.

  12. I like RC but not Queensway - nightmare to park and airless. My favourite is Baker Street. Canary Wharf is fantastic in the summer where you can sit outside by the river. Their specials on the inside cover of the dim sum menu have become a bit nouvelle cuisine, in the bad sense - i.e very small and chi chi but hardly work. I went off Cheung fan in the UK quite a while ago as they seem to have lost the quality everywhere I go. Forgot to try it in HK on a recent trip.

  13. You are right, it is a nightmare to park around the area but the fact it is windowless does not really make me think it is airless. I like the decor at Queensway and love that branch because of their special "Seafood Rice in Creamy Portuguese Sauce" which I adore. I have eaten at the Baker St branch but thought it was lacking in atmosphere. I will try the Canary Wharf branch in summer, thanks for the tip!

  14. My wife and I used to queue at RC Queensway many years ago. However, recently we noticed that their standard seems to have dropped. We have since discovered a new location that serves great dim-sum and has no problem for parking over weekends (or even weekday). Try "Dragon Castle" at Elephant & Castle. It is even out of the CC zone.

  15. Hi Martin, interesting to learn that my experience at RC Queensway was not an odd one but that you also confirmed my thoughts i.e. standards have slipped recently. Thanks for the recommendation, I will add Dragon Castel to my list of dim sum places to try.

  16. I think the one Tom is talking about at the bottom of the Holiday Inn near Canary Wharf is actually Peninsula Chinese Restaurant. It is located at the ground floor of the Holiday Inn Hotel in Greenwich. Closest station is North Greenwich on the Jubille Line. Never been but Chinese friends recommended it to me.


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