Let me start by admitting that dim sum is something of which I know little, so this write-up is purely based on taste, atmosphere, and the nuggets of expertise channeled my way by two well-versed companions. My experience so far stretches to pre-pub/bar filling-station chains, Ping Pong (I do it a disservice, it's really quite decent), and Dim T.
We were booked in to see A Prophet at The Curzon in Soho, at the awkward time of 6:30pm on a Sunday night, so dinner had to be very early, or very late. Dim sum in China is traditionally eaten either in the morning or afternoon (not the evening), so that afternoon was the perfect opportunity to try out Yauatcha, Soho's Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant, founded by Alan Yau, the man behind Wagamama, Cha Cha Moon, and the first Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant, Hakkasan.
First impressions of the modern space are favourable (we are in the petite but expensively decked-out basement), until we meet our surly waiter, who could not have appeared less keen to serve us. Giles Coren of The Times said, in 2004, that staff were in a "dopey minimalist trance". Well, six years later, nothing much has changed. I'll bring Jon here next time - he despises dim sum, some deception or physical force might have to be deployed - so he can try his 'inappropriate' restaurant jokes out on them, and crack their dead-pan composure.
Nina picked the dishes, a variety of steamed, fried, and baked dim sum, all delicately prepared, and beautifully presented (see pics below). Perhaps this is due to my over-zealous dipping of chilli and soy, but I was left struggling to remember most of the fillings. Don't blame the booze - I was strictly tea-total. Dare I say it, the seasoning and spice was perhaps a touch repetitive? I hasten to add, however, that they were all full of flavour, and deeply satisfying.
Our bill came to £20 each, which is on the steep side for dim sum, bumped up by £4 bottles of water, and jasmine tea at £3.80 a pop, which is cheekily charged by the pot, not refilled. Yet £20 for a fill of Michelin-starred food in London ain't bad.
For someone who does know what they are talking about, seek out Helen Yuet Ling Pang's London dim sum recommendations on her blog (sadly she has since retired from blogging). She loves the place. Book in advance.
Next place on my dim sum journey of discovery: Pearl Liang or Jade Garden.
Chilli fried squid (£9.80)
Prawn and bean curd cheung fun (£6.50)
Vegetable dumpling (£3)
Steamed Char sui bun (£3.20): my favourite. Light and fluffy, they encased steaming, intensely savoury pork.
Jade dumpling (£5.50). I can't for the life of me remember the filling. Nina, Matt: enlighten me!
Baked venison puff (£4.50)