After a disappointing dim sum experience at Royal China Bayswater (until now my gold standard dim sum venue in London) over the Christmas period, I thought I should broaden my repertoire and so recently decided to give Phoenix Palace a try.
Louise of Penguinette Cooks and a few Italian friends accompanied me to this well known Chinese restaurant in the Baker Street area. Despite our 2pm booking, we waited in the restaurant’s cramped entrance for 45 minutes before being seated.
As a table of 6, we could order a large variety of different dishes. Carefully chosen by Louise, who is a native Cantonese speaker, these were:
“Spicy baby octopus in chilli, garlic and pickled onion dressing” @ £3.80 – this was a recommendation by Mr Noodles and was indeed one of the best dishes we had – the octopus was very soft, it was also sour and sweet from the marinated sauce with a gentle burn from the chillies.
“Salty pork and black egg congee” @ £4.20 – I love congee, and this was as good as the ones I tried in many cafes in Hong Kong.
“Pork and prawn turnip cake” @ £2.60 – this was disappointing as the texture was slightly floury and there was little pork or prawn to be seen.
“Cheung fun with crispy dough stick” @ £3.40 – I normally go for prawn cheung fun, but this was a pleasant change – I enjoyed the crunchy texture of the crispy dough stick against the delicate cheung fun skin.
Some of the fried items like “Sesame prawn roll”, “Mashed prawn in soya pastry roll” and “Octopus patty with vinaigrette” all @ £3 were competently made but were rather unexciting.
“Prawn and chives dumpling” @ £3 – I always order this dish but Phoenix Palace’s was a big let down. The skin was white and very thick and filled with little if any chives or prawns. They looked like they had come straight out of the freezer.
“Shanghai dumpling with pork” @ £2.60 - this was the most disappointing item on the table – the skin was again very thick and the dumplings were completely devoid of broth. They ought to go down as the worst Shanghai dumplings I have ever eaten.
“Noodles, beef brisket with ginger and scallions” @ £7.50 – the brisket was very tender and sweet, making for a delicious dish that went well with our choices of dim sum.
“Glutinous rice in lotus leaf” @ £3.50 – these were smaller than the ones from Royal China and with an ungenerous filling. I would not recommend this at Phoenix Palace.
“Egg tarts” @ £2.60 – I am not a huge fan of these little tarts, preferring the original Portuguese “pastel de nata”. Phoenix Palace’s version had a strong taste of eggs yolk (not custard); they were lacking in sugar and were not to my taste.
“Mini onion pancake” @ £2.60 – we were expecting small, flat pancakes and were surprised when these little morsels arrived. The pastry was crisp and delicious, and filled with fried spring onions.
“Pork and prawn dumpling” @ £2.60 – these were hard and rubbery, and tasted as if they had been sitting on the steamer for a few hours.
“Char siu pork bun” @ £2.60 – these were surprisingly light and with a delicious filling of char siu pork.
“Black sesame glutinous ball” £2.80 – the glutinous outer layer was a tad thick on these sweets although I enjoyed both the texture and nutty flavour of this dessert.
Front of house staff were unfriendly and brusque – when inquiring about our table, we were simply told to “be patient”. It baffles me why the restaurant would bother taking bookings for dim sum if these cannot be honoured.
Since my visit to Phoenix Palace I read a positive review of their a la carte menu by Mr Noodles of Eat Noodles Love Noodles which made me think that standards might be better at dinner time. I hope to try this later in the year and report back.
Cost: total bill came to £75.60 (or £12.80 per person) including £9 for tea, and 12.5% service @ £8.40.
Likes: large & spacious restaurant, good central location, some recommended dishes are spicy baby octopus in chilli, garlic and pickled onion dressing, salty pork and black egg congee and cheung fun with crispy dough stick.
Dislikes: rude service particularly front-of-house staff, not honouring bookings, slightly pricier than other venues in Bayswater or Chinatown, some dishes to avoid are the Shanghai dumplings and the pork and prawn dumplings.
Verdict: Mediocre and forgettable dim sum experience, rude staff, pricier than other similar venues. To my surprise, the place was heaving. Not recommended.