Thursday, 22 October 2009

Royal China Canary Riverside review - best dim sum in London?

Royal+China+Canary+Riverside+review+London+ChowCuriously, though lovers of Chinese cuisine in London often heap praise on Yauatcha and Hakkasan, they don't normally head towards these Michelin starred restaurants on a regular basis. Ask any Londoners who are familiar with London's Chinese cuisine and they are likely to point you towards Royal China.

Out of the four Royal China restaurants in London (Bayswater, two along Baker Street, Canary Riverside), I have only been to the Royal China Club along Baker Street. Perhaps I went there with too high an expectation after reading the review on Guardian, I didn't find food and service excellent as claimed by the reviewer. The ambience was rather fine but that hardly warranted a repeat visit.

After much cajoling, I finally agreed to head for a Sunday dim sum lunch at the Royal China at Canary Riverside. My lunch mate claimed that Royal China - Canary Riverside served the best dim sum that she has ever tasted. Then again, she hasn't been to Yauatcha. But boy, was I tempted by her claims!

shrimp dumplings - the whole works

roast pork buns - a stomach filler 

Royal China Canary Riverside happened not to take any reservation for Sunday lunches and operated on a first come first serve basis during that period. The three of us arrived at the restaurant at 12.30pm and already the place, which opened only at 11am, was packed to the till. Not only that, there was a whole lot of people milling around in the waiting area. I took a number and was told that I had to wait for at least 30 minutes for our turn. That turned out to be 1 hour 30 minutes.

Wanton noodles - one third of the entire portion

Spare ribs - succulent fatty meat

We were famished by the time we were led to our tables. One word of advice: never order dim sum on an empty stomach. You will tend over order, overeat and overspend. That was exactly what we did. Interestingly, the Cantonese termed weekend dim sum lunches as 'Yum Cha', which literally means tea drinking. The idea is to take things slow and nibble on bite size dim sum while sipping your cup of tea, which is normally refillable.

There were three of us and two of that, you do the math but it sure looked good

We (well, mainly I) did exactly the opposite. I placed our order the moment we sat down and went on to gobbled up the tapas size dishes, only to realised my folly when half of the food was cleared, all within 30 minutes! We started to take things slow from then on.

Royal China Cheung Fun - stuffed with roast pork fillet and prawns

Other than the usual suspects, we also ordered Royal China Cheung Fun (£3.60) - essentially cheung fun filled with charsiew (roasted pork fillet) and prawns. In the cheung fun department, Royal China, with its generous fillings, easily rivalled Yauatcha even though its soy sauce came premixed with the cheung fun.

One dish that is normally overlooked is the Fried Dough Cheung Fun (£3.20), sometimes referred to as the Vegetarian Cheung Fun. Admittedly, this is not the usual staple as I presume there aren't a lot of dim sum regulars who are vegetarians. I first stumbled upon this during our visit to Hakkasan when they ran out of charsiew cheung fun. Royal China did the dish pretty well and do consider this if you were to drop by.

egg tarts and fried yam paste - a fitting round up to any dim sum meal

the tilted lid - indicating that a refill is in order

The service at Royal China (Canary Riverside) was efficient and we used the time they take to top up our teapot (with its half opened lid signifying that it's empty) as a benchmark - it was under 30 seconds both times. Don't expect the staff to fawn over you or even make small talk though; it is still a very traditional Chinese dim sum restaurant. But I must say that the dim sum at Royal China (Canary Riverside) was definitely one of the better ones that I have tried, and pound for pound, I'll place Royal China (Canary Riverside) above Yauatcha.

Address: 30 Westferry Circus, London E14 8RR
Tel: 020 7719 0888
Nearest DLR station: Canary Wharf, Westferry or West India Quay

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: 13%
Taste: ****
Service: ***
Ambience: ***
Suitable for: a lazy Sunday afternoon dim sum
Royal China on Urbanspoon

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Anonymous said...

With all due respect, if you did not know that "Yum Cha" is the correct terminology for the meal and that "Fried Dough Cheung Fan" or "Jar Lerng" is a common dish in any good Yum Cha venue, then you should not be reviewing Dim Sum.