24-26 Baker Street
If you love your dim sum all week round, China Royal is the place for you. With five restaurants within the Royal China Group based in Baker Street, as well as in Bayswater, Fulham and Canary Wharf, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to location as well.
We sampled dinner at Royal China’s 22 - 26 Baker Street location (there is also the Royal China Club based on the same street at 40 – 42). Each course we tried was also matched with wine recommendations from the manager, which was a great way to experience highlights from the wine list. We nibbled on the pickled turnip and boiled peanuts that arrived with our glasses of rosé, and both tasted far better than they sound. In fact, we could have kept snacking on platefuls of them, but they were whisked away in anticipation of the five-course meal we were about to delve into.
Dim Sum, which is traditionally served only up until the afternoon, is available throughout the evenings at Royal China. It’s a change that the restaurant has made in direct response to the fact that their customers enjoy it so much. Whilst the restaurant typically fills up on the weekend lunchtimes as families gather to eat and enjoy their regular fix of dim sum, Royal China was also heaving on the midweek night that we dined there. You can order from the usual menu and pick and choose your dim sum too. We tried prawn, vegetarian, and water chestnut varieties which were light, plump and delicately moreish. Dipping them into the chilli oil and chilli sauce made for a perfect mouthful.
Our next course (the restaurant’s signature dish), was lobster and ginger and we ate our way though it with glasses of South African Sauvignon Blanc. The waiter deftly showed us how to break off a claw and scoop out the soft white flesh. We weren’t quite so skilled at our own attempts, which left us feeling slightly frustrated by the notion that we could have got more out of the dish, if we had known how to handle a lobster.
Somehow we managed to fit in a third course (and in effect a second main meal). This time an Australian 2006 Chenin Blanc filled up our glasses, and made a good match for our beef in oyster sauce and Szechuan prawns. Both were tasty dishes but we were beginning to feel slightly full. Not full enough to pass up pudding though – there always seems to be more room for food if you’re changing flavours. Except that we had forgotten that the next course was crispy duck. Okay, so not strictly a pudding (or loosely a pudding), but the plum sauce made it easy to try a few pancakes stuffed with moist, crispy duck. The first few were rolled, expertly by our waiter, and the ones that we attempted to roll ourselves tasted great, but we were clearly a way off when it came to presentation. A glass each of Pinotage 2006 offered up a welcome smokey flavour to accompany our duck and then it really was time for pudding.
It came in the form of black sesame dumplings, egg yolk dumplings and fruit & oolong tea. My partner had almost bailed out by this point, managing just a few mouthfuls, but I did wipe the plate clean (you’ve got to try). The egg yolk dumpling was a very sweet little bite with a soft, gooey centre that tasted like cake mix, and a crispy doughnut-like finish. If you love your dim sum, and you like to eat… and eat… and eat – let Royal China fill your belly.
China Royal: 24-26 Baker Street, London W1U 7AB. Tel: 020 7487 4688.
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar