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100 Walworth Road
The flashiest show in this part of town continues its flamboyant run. Dragon Castle, hunkered down on the ground floor of a modern building in Elephant and Castle’s unjolly surroundings, exudes a certain amount of large-scale glamour. It also serves correctly prepared Cantonese food rarely seen in south-east London. Amid all the decorative drama, the best choice on the menu is undoubtedly the house-made dim sum (served until 4.30pm daily), and given the price, plenty of it. Readers praise the delicate grilled chive dumplings and fluffy char siu buns. At dinnertime, chilli crab and twice-cooked pork both have fans, and lobster or turbot would make the centrepiece of a banquet; there’s also a commendably wide choice of vegetables. Some believe Dragon Castle’s best days are in the past, and service can be variable, but compared to the value and quality of Chinatown’s traditional options, this is still a good bet.
100 Walworth Road
020 7277 3388
Elephant & Castle Tube Station 413m
Kennington Tube Station 583m
Elephant & Castle Station 163m
South Bank University 822m
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 5
Had an amazing meal at Dragon Castle, everything was so fresh and came out piping hot considering there was 10 of us eating here at the time. The staff were very friendly and helped us choose some food as we had not had dim sum before. Would highly recommend this place and i will be back soon, maybe try evening meal next time.
Food + drink: 2
Elephant & Castle is a depressing enough part of London to go to at the best of times. Exiting the underground station, the eye is confronted with an excess of cars and concrete. Those brave enough to navigate the roundabout can find themselves at Dragon Castle, a cavernous Chinese establishment that has been here for some time. Maybe it’s the best in the area, but it’s certainly not worth the journey from elsewhere. On pretty much all counts, diners can do considerably in either Chinatown or Bayswater. Begin with the atmosphere and, in a nutshell, it could be described as palpably absent. Despite it being a Friday, the place seemed only half-full. Our group was shoved at the back, with virtually no diners behind us. Looking onto the raised stage area at the very rear of the restaurant, it was almost as if we were at a show, waiting for an act that was yet (or never) to perform. The serving staff did little to liven things up. They seemed to operate on a very business-like basis, lacking in humour and performing to rote. Wine pouring and serving skills in particular could have done with some improvement. Onto the food, and it would best be described as blandly middle-of-the-road, certainly in no sense ground-breaking. Several of our group had eaten a la carte here in the past and praised the inventiveness of Dragon Castle, yet none of this innovation was evident in the set menus that we were forced to share (the restaurant refusing to offer a la carte for large groups in December…). Rather, it was like stepping back in time; rewind the clock to what Cantonese food tasted like when you maybe first experienced it in the 1980s or early 1990s, and this is what you get here – think prawn toast, sweet & sour pork, beef in a black bean sauce etc., all doused liberally in MSG. The Szechuan soup was a relative highlight and the vegetables were also generally executed competently enough, but there was little about which to get excited. Admittedly some wine was consumed, but at c£45/head all-in, Dragon Castle could hardly be described as good value, especially given the overall experience.
Food + drink: 3
If you're REALLY into dim sum (and to be honest, what kind of person are you if you're not excited by an endless parade of fried, baked and steamed meaty treasures) then it might be worth a trip to Elephant and Castle, home of Dragon Castle. I've been nudged about this place for several years by Hong Kong Cantonese foodie friends who describe it as a home from home. Despite its unpromising location, surrounded by condemned tower blocks situated off the bleakest roundabout in Zone One, it is where a lot of expats go for their fix.
The grander than expected entrance opens out into a pleasant space. Location and swift customer turnover aside, they've made an effort to go to town on the interior. Lazy fat carp swim in an ornamental pool reflecting the boarded up walkways of the Heygate estate opposite. It's a hell of a lot of feng shui to lump on a couple of fish, but they stalwartly shoulder (or fin?) the responsibility.
Arriving in traditional plates of three or four items, this is a meal best served family style. If there's not an argument about who hasn't had enough of what, it's not proper. Take a table with the slowly revolving ‘lazy Susan’ and order a lot: you'll eat it… At around £3 a portion, Dragon Castle is cheaper than most of Chinatown and for a full dim sum blowout washed down with the traditional Jasmine tea, you'll be lucky to top £15 a head between a decent sized group of you.
There's always been debate around whether Dragon Castle has a ‘secret’ Cantonese menu of local treats, rich in flavour and texture, that they won't serve to Westerners. I've heard this several times, mainly from Cantonese clientele, though on thorough investigation, I've put it down to rumour and the fact that many Chinese won't order from a menu here, they'll simply request their favourites and those will get made.
Those that do hit up the menu will find it vast. Well over 40 assorted dumplings, buns, puffs and braised bits of tendon to work your way through. To get to the good stuff, I photocopied the menu, took a straw poll of several Cantonese team mates, and gave their recommendations to the waitstaff, asking simply for two portions of everything (there were a few of us, 16 to be precise, a lot of mouths to fill with dumplings…)
The steamed dumplings, particularly the prawn varieties, went down swiftly, as did the various baked pork puffs, hot from the oven, sticky glaze attaching to teeth. Various roast pork buns also proved a success, sweeter than expected. Silken mixed Chung fun and belly sticking turnip cake provided a smooth break to the textural proceedings and from the cryptic end of the menu, Crab Pork Little Lanterns were a marmite call. Deep-fried hollow egg-shaped shells with an almost mucous paste inside, sheltering an umami-rich pork filling. I could have eaten them all afternoon, though a fellow diner paused between his mouthfuls of textured chicken foot tendon to describe them as pointless clag. We both looked at each other's bowls and laughed. It's the joy of good dim sum, everyone has their favourites and there's (almost) something for everyone.
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