Dim Sum. It rhymes with yum (well, kinda). And we’re nuts for it. Pillowy buns, steamed dumplings, perky parcels of perfection. If you’re looking for another family tradition to wrap up the weekend, going for dim sum is a wonderful alternative to a Sunday brunch or roast dinner.
Dim Sum is an ancient style of food made for sharing, served in small plates or wicker baskets. Dim Sum means ‘touching the heart’ in Cantonese and was geared towards relaxation, conversation and family time. Eating dim sum at a restaurant is also known as Yum Cha (‘drink tea’) as it’s typically accompanied by a selection of Chinese teas.
No sooner had I decided to write about where to eat Dim Sum in London than I got a press invite to Mr Bao in Peckham next week. I take this as a sign from the universe and God above that I’m well loved. The dim sum on their menu sounds off the hook.
Har Gau at Yautcha
Small plates are trendy in gastro circles, and they’re especially appealing to little diners. The babes go dizzy for dim sum. And pretty much every Chinese restaurant in London we’ve been to has been very welcoming to kids, families and large groups.
What follows is a list of mini reviews and recommendations of great dim sum, from street food to posh dining, plus some places that are still on our hit list. If we’ve missed your favourite dim sum, please do let us know in the comments or Tweet me @babesabouttown. Anywhere in London (and beyond) will do… Have dim sum? Will travel!
Where to Eat Dim Sum in London
Brick Lane: La Mian & Dim Sum, under the bridge at Brick Lane Market, SE10 9HY (Shoreditch High St overground/Liverpool St tube)
I think the babes first fell in love with dim sum around three years ago at this busy Brick Lane stall. On our way to meet the Babe Papa when Big Apple Hot Dogs had a cart outside Vibe bar, we’d make a couple of foodie pit stops. One was to The Rib Man, always a favourite. The other was to La Mian & Dim Sum to join the queues of hungry folk watching the guy stretching out fresh hand-pulled noodles, and the women serving up generous portions of steamed and fried dim sum. For around £3 you could grab a large and tasty Fried Pork Dumpling or fist-sized Chicken Buns. We haven’t been in a while but just writing about this spot has put me in the mood for a return visit!
Bright Courtyard Club (pics 1 & 3) 43-45 Baker Street, W1U 8EW (Baker St tube)
We were hoping to schedule our upcoming Mothers & Shakers business brunch at this swanky look restaurant/lounge, soon to open a private members’ club. My suspicion is that there would be a lot more eating than brainstorming going on. Bright Courtyard serves an all day dim sum menu (from 12 noon) with everything from classic Shanghai Siu Long Bao (soup dumplings) and Mini Spare Ribs, to Spicy Jellyfish for the more adventurous. It’s at the pricier end with plates from £7.50-£15. Keep an eye out for offers such as the current £18.99 per person for unlimited dim sum. Tel: +44 20 7486 6998
Fu Manchu, 15 – 16 Lendal Terrace, Clapham, SW4 7UX (Clapham High St overground/Clapham North & Clapham Common tube)
Fu Manchu is a funky look club/bar in Clapham that came to our attention for its All You Can Eat Sunday dim sum menu, at £19.50 per adult or £9.50 per child under 12, served 12pm-8pm. Promising ‘fragrant authentic dim sum, steamed to perfection’, like Nan Gua Su (steamed pumpkin puffs) and Cha Sui Bao (honey BBQ pork fluffy buns). Sounds like a top place to visit if you’re in the south London area and get that dumplings craving. Tel: +44 20 3397 8844
Hakkasan, 8 Hanway Place, W1T 1HD (Tottenham Court Rd tube)
I must confess I haven’t been to Hakkasan since before kids (gasp!), but the experience lingers in the memory. One of London’s hippest restaurants back then still pulls in the crowds and the dim sum remains well favoured by foodies about town. You’d have to get the minions scrubbed up for a fancier dinner than normal, although it might be easier to book a sitter and treat yourself to grown-up conversation and a sexy ambience. Hakkasan are the group behind Yautcha (see below) and they’re famous for Dim Sum Sundays (£58 per head, 6 course menus), showcasing their fusion of traditional and modern fare such as Black Truffle and Duck Dumpling or Golden Fried Lobster and Cheese Roll. Tel: +44 (0)20 7927 7000
Joy King Lau, 3 Leicester Street, WC2H 7BL (Leicester Square tube)
Unpretentious Chinatown restaurant that’s been going strong since the early ‘90s. Joy King Lau is one of my go-to favourites, although it does get packed, especially during dim sum serving time (until around 5pm). There’s a wide choice of staples like Siu Mai (pork and prawn dumplings) and Beef Cheung Fun (beef in steamed roll) to more ‘exotic’ fare like Drunken Chicken’s Feet and Spicy Tripe (I’ll never forget a friend asking the waiter for ‘shaki’, which is what we call tripe in Nigeria). It’s all affordable too with a dim sum meal coming in around £20 for 2 diners. Tel: +44 20 7437 1132/+44 20 7437 1133
Ping Pong multiple branches including Festival Terrace at Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX (Waterloo/Embankment tube)
Ping Pong isn’t my top pick for dim sum in London, but it’s hugely popular with London families and a useful stop-off if you’re out and about in the South Bank area (beware the crowds and queues here), or shopping at Westfield. Ping Pong is child friendly, the food is tasty enough and not overly pricey (dim sum plates are under £5 each), and they also do a decent cocktail. The menu is pan-Asian, so you’ll get Vietnamese rice paper prawn rolls and Japanese style beef gyoza dumplings alongside the typical Cantonese dim sum. Lazy Sumdays is their all you can eat menu for adults £22.95 and children under 12 at £11.50 and this Mother’s Day (Mar 3-6) they’re offering 3 courses of dim sum + limited edition cocktail The Mother Lovin’ Fizz at £25 per person. Cheers! Tel: +44 20 7960 4160 (South Bank, see website for other branches)
Royal China, multiple branches including Royal China Baker St, 24-26 Baker Street, W1U 3BZ (Baker St/Bond St tube)
Royal China will always have a special place in my heart as one restaurant we visited several times with my Mum on her last trip to the UK. We’d go to the Baker St branch and order up a lunchtime feast including won ton soup, egg fried rice, and gorgeous dim sum. It’s a large place and they were always packed to the rafters, but accommodating although sniffy if we went ‘off piste’ with our food picks (the menu favours authenticity). The menu is varied — from mixed meat noodles to popular dim sum desserts like Egg Custard Buns — and served lunchtime until 5pm and the food is exquisite.
Nomita insists that the Royal China Fulham branch is the best of the bunch: “My pick for consistently delicious dim sum. Never had a bad meal there. In fact EACH time we go there either my husband or I say ‘today was the best it’s ever been’. We probably go around once a month and have been doing for years so saying that each time without fail means it was damn delicious!’ Tel: +44 207 487 4688 (Baker St, see website for other branches)
Xiong Mao (Islington Branch), 324 Essex Rd, N1 3PB (Highbury & Islington tube)
We discovered Xiong Mao after our regular takeaway spot was closed one night, and we decided to explore one of the menus that had dropped through our letterbox. Good thing we did as we recently sampled their dim sum platter. Delicious! It will set you back a few quid but their steamed pork dumplings and chicken bun went down a treat. Xiong Mao describes itself as a ‘gourmet, restaurant standard’ delivery service and claims no MSG, preservatives or additives in its menu. They also do Thai cuisine, although we can’t vouch for this yet. Xiong Mao delivers across London, from its main branches in Putney, Tooting and Islington. Tel: +44 20 7359 9100 (Islington, check website for other branches)
Yautcha, 15-17 Broadwick Street, W1F 0DL (Piccadilly Circus/Oxford Circus tube)
Take a look at the Har Gau (steamed prawn dumplings) on Yautcha restaurant’s web site and tell me you’re not salivating. I’ll give you a moment to wipe the drool from your mouth. Better? The beauty of Yautcha is in providing a gorgeous setting while sticking to a simple approach to their dim sum. I’ve had this spot in my sights for a while now and my girl Nomita recommends Yautcha for ‘lovely dim sum in a sexy, upscale restaurant’. This would be ideal for a Dates with Dads escape or a mums night out with cocktails from their extensive menu. On the web site you’ll find helpful guides and recipes for the most popular dim sum, if you want to whip up your own at home. Average plates around £4/£5 going up to £11.90 for King Crab Dumplings. You can enjoy the Taste of Yautcha menu (£28.88 for 2 diners) on Mon-Thu, 2pm-5.45pm. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7494 8888
Young Cheng, 22 Lisle St, Chinatown (Leicester Square/Piccadilly Circus tube)
I had dinner here on my birthday last month, before heading out to watch the comeback of the fantastically funny Tony Law in a stand-up comedy show at Leicester Square Theatre. Four of us had ordered a mix of mains that proved too much for us, even though it was all yummy. But I’m planning a rematch just to sample their dim sum that my friend Annie assures me is her absolute favourite Chinatown dim sum and super affordable to boot. It’s been described as a ‘locals’ favourite’ which also draws me in, as when eating out in Chinatown (or any other ‘ethnic’ outpost in London) I always look for locals rather than tourists as a sign the food is up to scratch! Tel: +44 20 7287 3045
Yum Cha Silks and Spice, Yum Cha Silks & Spice,
27-28 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AG (Camden Rd overground/Camden Town tube/Chalk Farm tube)
This popular restaurant opposite Camden’s Stables Market is currently closed for refurbishment. But do keep them in mind as they’re highly rated, with dim sum served day and evening, and karaoke rooms if you want to make a night of it. The dim sum menu is super cheap (under £5 per plate) and loaded with options. You’ll find the usual goodies along with dishes like Pan Fried Vegetarian Gyoza (crispy dough parcels), Steamed Lotus Leaf Rice, and Five Spice Pig Ear. Hey, whatever floats your bao. Tel: +44 20 7482 2228
More Dim Sum in London on our Hit List
Beijing Dumpling on 23 Lisle St, Chinatown
Dumpling’s Legend, Gerrard St, Chinatown
Gerrard’s Corner, Gerrard St, Chinatown
Jen Cafe, Newport Place, Chinatown
Pearl Liang in Paddington
Princess Garden of Mayfair (around the corner from Selfridges)
Where do you like to eat dim sum in London?