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Saturday, 15 May 2010

Seeking the Best Dim Sum in London - Royal China Club

Royal China Club

Located on soulless Baker Street, the Royal China Club (RCC) is one of the many fashionable restaurants that seem to be livening up an otherwise lacklustre street.

Part of the Royal China Group of restaurants, the Royal China Club was opened as the group’s answer to the challenge set by upmarket dim sum eateries like Hakkasan and Yauatcha, with menu prices to match.

Accompanying me on the day were Dr G and Mr Noodles who politely accepted our impromtu invitation to dim sum. The restaurant has an elegant feel with large tanks filled with lobsters and other crustacea dominating its entrance.

As well as the standard dim sum dishes the menu also contained some unusual choices like the delicious “Pan fried fillet of duck breast” @ £4.60, served in large slices on a hot sizzling plate.

Another unusual but flavoursome dish was the “Fillet of sea bass wrap” @ £4.60. Beautifully presented, the dish consisted of fillets of sea bass wrapped around crunchy vegetables in a spicy broth.

The “Shanghai pork and crab dumplings” @ £4.20 were also good, holding a fair amount of concentrated broth in a fine, translucent skin.

One of my favourite dim sum dishes is “Prawn and yellow chive dumplings” @ £3.90. I was pleased to find RCC’s dumplings to be excellent – the morsels were bursting with a generous amount of filling, they tasted fresh and had a delicious herby/garlicky flavour from the chives.

The “Bamboo pith and prawn dumpling” (har gow) @ £3.90 were beautifully pleated, and well cooked – the skin had a slightly chewy/sticky texture which is the sign of a well made har gow.

“Lobster dumpling with rice wine sauce” @ £8 was a let-down in both execution and flavour. The delicate meat was completely overwhelmed by the other ingredients, and at £8, we all felt it was overpriced.

Onto more familiar grounds, I felt that the “Baked char siu pork puff” @ £3.60 were as good as I hoped they would be. I love these puffs, and nearly always order them for dim sum. They remind me of Brazilian/Portuguese “Empadinhas” (although in our version we use prawn or chicken and sometimes palm hearts). The pastry was deliciously buttery and flaky holding the delectable and sweet char siu pork filling.

One of the most interesting dishes was the “Glutinous rice omelette with duck” @ £5. Similar to the more ubiquitous “glutinous rice in lotus leaf”, RCC’s version was novel with a thin outer layer of fried egg, and tasted delicious.

Another traditional dim sum given the RCC revamp was the “Sesame paper prawn with mango“@ £3.80. The sweet mango worked surprisingly well with the combination of prawns and coriander, giving a real lift to the dish.

Cheung fun is a “must-have” in any dim sum meal and so we ordered “Veal cheung fun” and “Dover sole cheung fun” both at @ £4.20. Despite the novel presentation, I felt both dishes were rather disappointing – in my opinion cheung fun is all about the different textures (and flavour), and I did not feel these types of meat and fish worked well against the silken rice wrappers.

The biggest disappointment however was the “Braised E-fu noodles with soya sauce” @ £9.50. The noodles were mushy and sat in an indiscernible brown sauce with little, if any, flavour.

The saving grace to a “hit-and-miss” lunch was our dessert – “Coconut moss dumplings with black sesame seed” @ £3.90. The black filling was gloriously nutty contrasting well with a delicate coconut flavoured wrapper.

To accompany our dim sum dishes we had a pot of “Tieguanyin” oolong tea (also known as Iron Goddess of Mercy) @ £4.80 which was delicately flowery and very refreshing. The tea pot was regularly topped up with freshly boiled water without us needing to ask for it.

Cost: £81.40 including 12.5% service or £27 per person.

Likes: excellent prawn and chive dumplings and glutinous rice omelette with duck dshes, novel presentation, attentive and polite service.

Dislikes: higher than average prices, some of the dishes were ambitious but did not quite deliver like the lobster dumpling and veal cheung fun.

Verdict: Good quality dim sum restaurant with high aspirations but lacking in consistency. Higher than average prices, excellent service, and elegant setting. Given the high prices and inconsistent cooking, I would rather spend an extra few pounds and go to Hakkasan. Despite this, I would still recommend RCC over the nearby Phoenix Palace where cheaper prices go hand in hand with poor quality dim sum and rude service.

Royal China Club on Urbanspoon


  1. Sounds like it's worth a visit for the prawn and chive dumplings alone!

  2. Royal China WAS well known for its dim sum a few years ago. However, claiming that it is the best dim sum in London is like saying Gordon Ramsay is the best restaurant in London. Being famous and well known does not make it the best!

    I personally do not know which restaurants serve the best dim sum in London but i sure do know of at least 1 place that does better than Royal China. I suggest you visit "Dragon Castle" (http://www.dragoncastle.eu/) at Walworth Road. It is not as posh as Royal China but that's where I would go for my Sunday dim sum.

  3. I ate here earlier in the year and I think your summing up is spot on. It was a bit expensive but was very pleasant surroundings, attentive professional service and most of the dishes were very good but some a bit so so. I'm not a very experienced dim sum eater so I think I was a bit spoiled by the experience - I've been to a couple of other places since and felt very let down.

    I must say the prawn and chive dumplings really were fantastic!!

  4. I quite agree with you Luiz that their prices are higher without necessarily delivering sufficient additional value in return. When I was there last, the dim sum menu was exciting on first reading as I could see gourmet new interpretations of standard offerings. Like you, I found the cheng fun insipid. Steamed dumplings were generally good. Paul and I tried a fried rice dish with abalone sauce. When it arrived, there was only one rice bowl worth of rice in the dish! One would normally expect a plateful enough for two. The fried rice tasted nothing special too. I think RCC provides a needed contrast to the likes of Phoenix Palace but despite paying rather a lot more, it isn't that good value still. On goes the search for hearty, tasty, fresh and good value dim sum in London!

  5. @Martin Ng

    I have been to Dragon Castle a couple of times. The dim sum there is okay I think particularly for steamed items. I thought the deep fried ones didn't measure up - probably not double fried in hot enough oil for the second fry. They were greasy and a tad soggy (yam croquttes).

  6. @ Emir Thomas, Bon Vivant - Hi Emir, thanks for stopping by. I love your site, and the concept is very insteresting, wow! Indeed, I think RCC is well worth a visit, specially for the prawn and chives dumplings.

    @ Martin Ng - thank you for your tip, I have been planning to visit Dragon Castle for a while now.

    I am not advocating RCC to be the best dim sum venue in London - if you read my review carefully or at least the "verdict", you will see that very clearly. Also, this review is for Royal China Club and not Royal China.

    @ Maison Cupcake - hi Sarah, lovely to hear from you! I personally think that RCC is quite good but not perfect, and I think you were right to think you were a bit "spoilt" by your experience there as it is better and more luxurious than 90% of dim sum venues in London, but also pricey. Not my favourite dim sum destination, but one I will definitely return when feeling a little more generous...

  7. @ Louise - interesting that we had pretty much the same experience there. I thought some dishes were excellent, others just ok and a couple were actually bad. I should go back there and order some staples to see how they stack up. Thanks for your comment.

  8. That glutinous rice omelette looks very tempting indeed!

  9. Hi Mimi, it was one of the best dishes that we had together with the prawn and chives dumplings. Interesting to hear what your favourite dim sum place is.

  10. Hi,
    I'm really enjoying your Dim Sum series -but which restaurants would be in your top three?
    Mr Truffle

  11. I keep on going to Royal China at times when they don't have dim sum on - very annoying!

  12. @ Mr Truffles - thanks. My top three dim sum restaurants in London are YUM CHA (excellent food and best value), HAKKASAN (excellent food & setting but pricey), and PEARL LIANG (very good food and average prices).

  13. @ Gourmet Chick - that is so annoying, it happens a lot, specially as most restaurants stop serving dim sum at 4:30pm and not 5pm as advertised. I would however try and get there earlier than 1pm to avoid queues or busy periods when service/quality might not be at their best. Also late dim sum might be a little tired in the afternoon.

    YUM CHA serves dim sum in the evenings too, and they are excellent!

  14. Interesting write up. I am slowly building up to Dim Sum at the moment - i just haven't got around to it before now. Glad to read this write up as I was always curious about this place having walked past it a dozen times on the way to Galvins. Having read this and seen the photos I would probably opt for somewhere else first.

    Saying that, I did like the look of some of the dishes there, particularly the char sui puffs (more usually seen in a more bready dumpling - is that right?) and the black sesame balls which look and sound winderful.

  15. @ Grubworm - indeed you are right, the puff pastries can be very doughy sometimes but RCC's version was light, flaky and buttery. Let me know if you fancy going for dim sum sometime, I have been wanting to go back to Pearl Liang sometime soon.

  16. Luiz, I have to take you to a couple of other of my fav dim sum places. RCC is just really average and is totally over priced. Ok, the decor is nicer but the service is nothing to shout about either and only slightly less attentive than the average Chinese restaurant.

    Unfortunately, there really isn't a good high quality dim sum place in London but there are a few that are quite good and don't serve up the defrosted stuff found in a lot of the inferior Chinatown restos.


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