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From dumplings to steamed buns, dim sum has a dedicated following. Most people head to Chinatown to get their fix, although there are surprising finds dotted all over the capital – and just beyond. Dim sum has gone mainstream, too: the Ping Pong chain gives a user-friendly introduction to the delicacy. Aficionados and newcomers alike should read on for Square Meal’s pick of London’s most authentic dim sum restaurants.
High-rolling Hakkasan (pictured, left) and its sibling Hakkasan Mayfair remain two of the most talked-about restaurants in the capital and continue to preach their sexy oriental gospel to full houses. The Michelin-starred kitchen serves ‘ambrosial’ dim sum ranging from XO scallop dumpling to steamed corn-fed chicken and fish maw wrap. Prices are high and table-turning enforced, but in terms of experience, there’s none better.
With two branches (one in Bayswater and a second in Chinatown), Leong’s Legends specialises in generous portions of Taiwanese dishes, including soup dumplings, but also stretches to more traditional dim sum. It’s not a place to linger, as testified by the queues outside, but for a fiery snack, it’s a good bet.
Gants Hill roundabout is as unlovely a spot as you’ll find for a restaurant, but Mandarin Palace happily compensates for this with some of London’s top Cantonese food – including fresh and attractive dim sum (fish balls and smooth, slippery congee are favourites). Fun with friends and family, and flash enough for a date, it’s a friendly all-rounder of a destination.
With its spectacular views across Hyde Park, glossy design and friendly service, Min Jiang (pictured, right) ticks all the boxes for an upmarket Chinese. Although the restaurant’s speciality is Beijing duck, lunchtime is dim-sum time, with options such as braised belly pork with Chinese buns. It’s not the cheapest place in town, but the admirable wine list and perfect setting make it a popular destination for lunch.
This Chinese favourite turns out some of the finest dim sum in upscale Bayswater. Sticky-sweet braised pork buns or scallop dumplings show a deft hand with the classics, while specials such as pork with preserved yellow radish are inspired creations. Set menus offer a handy introduction for novices.
Long weekend queues demonstrate the pulling power of Phoenix Palace and prove that hardcore fans will do almost anything for their fix of divine dim sum. The vast, ornately decorated restaurant really comes alive at Chinese New Year, with loud and all-inclusive traditional celebrations.
This posh but unpretentious Chinese is decked out with cool marble surfaces, oriental art and well spaced tables – the perfect setting for a business lunch. During the day it serves fairly priced traditional dim sum that readers have pegged as ‘some of the best in town’). Don’t miss the steamed dumplings and crispy seafood rolls.
With six London branches to cater for a legion of committed fans, Royal China has become synonymous with superior dim sum. Flamboyant black-and-gold interiors make an impact, while treats such as pork-and-radish dumplings, and yam paste with dried meat pander to dim sum experts. Square Meal’s editor reckons the best of the bunch is the Baker Street branch (pictured).
Taking inspiration from the oriental glamour of 1920s’ Shanghai, this modern Chinese makes an impressively posh setting for indulging your love of dim sum, the kitchen’s main claim to fame. From steaming prawn dumplings to crunchy yam croquettes and fluffy steamed buns, the selection showcases skilled hands at work in the kitchen. Live jazz at weekends is an added bonus.
Far removed from touristy Chinatown, this teahouse and dim-sum parlour is still one of London’s most talked-about venues. Whether to sit on the light and airy ground floor or in the ‘nightclubby’ basement divides opinion, but the inventive combinations on the short dim sum menu are please-all hits. Don’t miss the roast duck-and-pumpkin dumplings or pear-and-taro croquettes.