28 February 2013
The feng shui inside might be stunning but it's difficult to imagine many less auspicious locations in zone 1. A Wong sits like a slightly out of place squat granite and glass monolith among the mediocre lunchtime options and sandwich chains of Wilton Road. Laid back decor inside, a clean mix of Scandinavian woodwork and soft straight stone lines.
There are three menus, a lighter dim sum focussed lunch menu, a more substantial evening list and a tasting menu spanning the both. They all dip in and out of a range of regional specialisms, so Sichuan standards like Gong Bao chicken and dry fried beans rub noses with braised lettuce, Imperial dishes and Yangzhou fried rice.
Prices are reasonable across the board, though at £1.50 a piece the dim sum will mount up pretty quickly. It isn't the place for a weekend blow out, but then you're unlikely to see many people round here during the weekend other than the confused tourists disembarking from Victoria station. Of particular note is the express menu, with two courses, a drink (and two lovely salted caramel petits fours) for a very reasonable £12.95.
A trio of dim sum wouldn't usually come close to satisfying me, even as a starter, but these are monsters. That classic shrimp har gau, here at least half again as big as the tiddlers I'm used to in Chinatown, came with an innovative twist, a protective bubble coat of sharp citrus and yuzu foam. That other stalwart pork and prawn siu mai came with its own welcome innovation, a tiny sliver of puffed pork crackling, texturally complimenting the freshly steamed and freshly made parcel. A grease free and delightfully crispy pork wonton completed the set, as delightful a dim sum experience as I've had in this country.
Of the four or so mains offered with the express menu, I went for Sichuanese speciality dan dan mian, or peddler's noodles, named after the distinctive cooking pots they were served from by wandering street sellers. Whenever I've had it before, the soft minced beef, seasoned with those numbing Sichuan peppercorns, mixed with chunks of chilli, veggies and noodles has come in a spicy broth made of noodle water, Shaoshing rice wine and stock. Here it comes, with a few beansprouts and a single vegetable, in a thick meaty gravy, dumped over pedestrian noodles. Not unpleasant per se, but unexpectedly dry, overly rich and not much to my taste.
I'll be back, if not for the tasting menu, certainly for a more detailed examination of the evening menu and some more of that super sized dim sum. The sun was out, and the open plan airy space will be gorgeous come the summer. Let's hope that the locals can tear themselves away from Nando's and the infinitely inferior Dim T just up the road and support the new kid on the block.