Thursday, 18 November 2010

Royal China review Baker Street always a long queue during weekends


Address: 24-26 Baker Street,
London W1U 7AJ
Tel: 020 7487 4688
Nearest Tube station: Baker Street

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Service charge: 13%
Taste: ***
Service: ***
Ambience: ***
We were in a terrible craving for dim sum over the weekend and decided to pop by Royal China along Baker Street for lunch. While most of the Chinese restaurants in London are congregated in the vicinity of Chinatown, the better ones (save for Four Seasons) seems to be located elsewhere. The same could be said for the better restaurants serving dim sum as well.

Pearl Liang at Paddington, Lotus and Royal China at Canary Wharf, Yauatcha in Soho, Hakkasan near Tottenham Court Road, Phoenix Palace at Baker Street just to name a few.

Interestingly, all except the Royal China accepts reservations during weekends. Naturally, the same goes for the Royal China Baker Street branch. It can be pretty frustrating especially when the weather is miserable and there is a horde of equally frustrated people milling around in the reception with growling stomachs waiting for a table to become available.

Despite that, we turned up shivering and hungry, and waited for a good forty minutes until our number was called. Apparently, there were a whole lot of other parents with buggies and their screamers hungering for a dim sum fix. One thing about Royal China is that other than the easy availability of toddlers’ high chairs, there is also a baby changing room. That probably explained the number of young families among its customers.

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Anyway, we placed our orders within minutes of us settling down. We were that famished. Wife was rather disappointed that Royal China doesn’t serve porridge at all but the egg tarts more than make up for it. The tarts were soft, malleable and didn’t crumble easily. Its custard was consistent and creamy. It would be perfect if they had been served at least lukewarm. In any event, they were way better than the ones we had at Yum Cha.

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The stuffed beancurd roll is a vegetarian selection. Filled with bits of carrots, radish and what I could only imagined to be ‘mock prawns’, it was a tad too starchy for our liking.

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Charsiew buns, another of our dim sum staple, tasted a bit like those obtainable from supermarket. While they come with good size filling, the charsiew sauce was too thick and sweet for our liking. Some tea was needed to clear our throat after downing these.

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Wife loved the squid pancakes. Said that it reminded her of the same that she can get back home. I was a bit less enthusiastic about them. While it tasted very light and less oily than expected, I thought they could do with less water chestnuts.

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Charsiew cheung fun a bit of a disappointment. I got a feeling that the dish was left in the kitchen for far too long before it was served. As a result, its skin had hardened with soya sauce soaked through.

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Royal China is the only place I come across where yujiao (fried yam pastry) comes with maize to provide the sweet flavour. That I suppose is better than just adding sugar into yam paste directly. The pastry itself was lightly fried to perfection.

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The diced chicken and salted fish fried rice (£9.20) was an afterthought. We had a good one over at Wing Yip the previous week so we thought of trying the one at Royal China. We thought that Royal China went overboard with dark soya sauce and the rice, which was enough for three small eaters, was a bit too oily.

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Our last burst of fire came in the form of custard buns. While I have absolutely no problem with the buns themselves, there was way too much milk in the custard filling – a direct contrast with the custard tarts.

Royal China charges a 13% service charge. Yes, the staff were efficient but that’s only if you are able to get their attention. My impression of the place running like an well-oiled machine came apart towards the end of our meal when a repeat order was served – thrice. I was really tempted to finish up that extra cheung fun that kept coming back to our table.

That said, it’s easy to see why Royal China remains Londoners’ favourite dim sum place. That’s especially Yauatcha’s disastrous change in menu, which halved its dim sum variety and increased prices for those that remained. Also, most of the dim sum items available are below £3, which is reasonable for dim sum in central London.

Well, I would recommend that you arrive only at around 3pm when the queue is dying down. And if you have not noticed already, most dim sum platters come in threes so I guess that’s the optimal size for your party.

Royal China on Urbanspoon

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