Growing up in Hong Kong meant that I spent many a formative Sunday having dim sum for lunch. And like many, the way I’ve eaten dim sum became the ‘right’ way to do it. Over the years I’ve shared a table with many others who had their own ideas of the ‘right’ way to eat dim sum. And there seem to be a myriad of rules: from where you put your bones and waste (I put it on the big plate and eat from the bowl, others put their rubbish on the table), to what to drink, to the great question of chicken feet or not chicken feet (I hear some of you go ‘but… auuuuuutthennnnnniiiiiiiciiiiittttttttt!!!). So, I decided we need to do some ‘market research’- i.e. let’s go and stuff ourselves with dim sum!
Royal China on Queensway has been my go-to dim sum place since I’ve arrived in London (way back when I didn’t have grey hair). There was a brief intermission where Ming Jiang seemed like it could become my no.1 for dim sum in London, but though their food was delicious (and you could book a table), their manager seem to hate kids, and I reverted back to eating plebeian dim sum (basically they were a bit too posh and uppity for my liking- after all dim sum should be cheap and cheerful). As we had plans for the afternoon, we decided to stay central and try the Baker Street branch instead.
Rule No.1 of Dim Sum Club: Be there on time
If, like us, you choose to go to a very popular dim sum restaurant with a ‘no reservations’ policy, make sure you check the opening times and arrive no later than 15 minutes after opening. We got there 5-10 minutes before and were 2nd in the queue but by 11 the queue was LONG. As they (like many other dim sum places) have a ‘full party’ policy, make sure you’re on time because the restaurant tend to be completely filled up after about 30 minutes and you’d have to wait for around an hour (I’ve been quoted 1 1/2hour wait before, and these ain’t places ever to invest in qudini) for everyone to leave. Seriously, you’ve got no-one but yourself to blame if all your friends suddenly go all ‘mean girls’ on you because you have to wait an hour for lunch.
Rule No.2 of Dim Sum Club: Follow the traditional brunch drinks rule
i.e. Tea, soft drinks, champagne/cava/prosecco (mimosas, bellinis and kirs are ok~ish), beer. If you really have to (and if they’d make you one), a bloody mary, but they don’t go with dim sum. Of course, what really goes with dim sum is cocktail- but save that for the evening at more westernised places and avoid at traditional Sunday dim sum brunch. I’m personally a big tea and full-fat coke (I never otherwise drink soft drinks) fan at dim sum as I think all that caffeine inhibits the dreaded ‘MSG coma’ afterwards. (The following babies won’t go well with red or white wine but fine with bubbles, beer and coke.)
Rule No.3 of Dim Sum Club: What happened at Dim Sum club stays at Dim Sum Club
There are no more rules. GO crazy! As long as you’re not flinging food at each other like sex-crazed monkeys, dim sum is a pretty chilled affair. Eat your sweets and salty together. Take lots of selfies. Lament that you forgot to bring a pair of scissors (SO useful for cutting up spring rolls and stuff). Participate in extreme food envy by staring at the next table like you’re a malnourished hawk watching prey. Continuously badger the server for more food. Eat chicken feet or don’t eat the chicken feet. Who cares, it’s a warm, fuzzy dim sum hole and it’s for sure better than falling into any other kind of hole. *All this and more did happen at our visit to Royal China, but we’ll let you build your own memories.*
Did we like Royal China? Heck yeah. It was rounds and rounds of deliciousness. One thing I do like about their menu is that they had loads of pictures of food. It makes ordering much easier for the dim sum virgin or the uninitiated. Honestly, everything we had here were pretty tasty and we finished every single morsel of food put in front of us- we ordered around 25 dishes between the 5 of us and the only complaint I received was that ‘we weren’t stuffed’. We were slightly worried that we would have to pay a bomb with the amount we’ve ordered, but it came to under £20 each, which means that we could have ordered 30 dishes (and stuffed ourselves silly) for it to cost the same as the ‘unlimited dim sum’ deal at Ping Pong (and the quality of the food is incomparably better- not as good as some places in Asia, but I’d still give it a B+/A– compared to all the places I’ve tried in Hong Kong).
The only thing that went slightly wrong was that the waiter picked on one of our party to ceremoniously hand him a fork: no, not all of us got given forks, nor did they give everyone on the table but myself a fork. It was like he had a ‘I don’t know how to use chop sticks face’? (though he damn well knew how to use them better than I do, damn it!). Oh well, around here, if they weren’t outright rude or physically violent towards us (and feed us good food), we just go with it. And we did. We named it the ‘fork of shame’ for when you drop your food:
Price: For a very full, but not stuffed tummy and including a drink each (as well as tea)- £20 per head
24-26 Baker Street, W1U 3BZ