Monday, 12 April 2010

Dim Sum @ Royal China Club (Cantonese), London

Royal China Club is the classy upmarket offshoot of the Royal China mini-chain. It reminds me of the posh Cantonese restaurants found in five-star Hong Kong hotels although the views of Baker St aren't quite as stunning. It's pricey here and they are challenging the likes of Hakkasan and Yauatcha albeit in a more traditional setting. Posh dim sum places like these aren't my usual cup of tea but I thought it'd be rude to decline The London Foodie's invitation to join him and Dr G for lunch. 

A couple of things threw me when surveying the menu. Firstly, there was no tick-sheet to fill in. I hate it when there's no tick-sheet as it can be a nightmare trying to keep track of your order. Secondly, many of my favourites like mak yu beng (fried cuttlefish cakes) and zhaliang (cheung fun filled with fried dough stick) weren't on the menu.

Rather than dwell on this, we went for some unusual dishes that are seldom seen elsewhere. Dishes like pan-fried duck breast fillet (£4.60), which was tasty and moreish but was spoiled by a gloopy sauce. More successful was the fillet of sea bass wrap (£4.80), which consisted of two curls of sea bass fillet wrapped around julienned veg. It was topped with glass noodles and I really liked the zingy chilli flecked dressing it came with.

I also enjoyed the concept and the execution of the duck omelette with glutinous rice (£5.00), which was like a lotus leaf wrap but in omelette format. Sadly, I couldn't say the same about the lobster dumplings in rice wine sauce (£8.00), which were a huge disappointment. The lobster was overcooked and the only discernible flavour was rice wine. It was also a total rip off as there were only two dumplings (I thought there would be three) i.e. £4 per dumpling – outrageous.

For all the off-piste dishes that were available here, it was the staples that I was most impressed with. I liked the baked char siu pork puff (£3.60) whilst the surprise addition of mango in the sesame prawn rolls (£3.80) worked. I couldn't really detect the advertised crab in the xiao long bao or Shanghai pork dumplings w/crab (£4.20) but these properly retained the soup filling. The har gau or prawn & bamboo pith dumplings and prawn & chive dumplings (both £3.90) were also superior to most London dim sum joints.

Dim sum isn't dim sum without cheung fun and we went for Dover sole cheung fun and veal cheung fun. There was disagreement across the table as I preferred the Dover sole whilst the others preferred the veal. The presentation in common with the rest of our meal was excellent but as you can see above, the portion size was a bit mean for £4.20 per dish.

The biggest let down of the meal was the braised e-fu noodles (£9.50), as these were soggy and came with a gloopy sauce. Totally underwhelming and well below the standard you’d expect from a restaurant of this calibre.

We rounded the meal off with coconut moss dumplings with black sesame (£3.90), which were a delicious end to a generally above par dim sum feast. 

Service was attentive although they may have been a tad overzealous in their attempts at upselling. Either that or I was being a bit oversensitive. The bill racked up to £81 including tea and service i.e. £27/head. It's not cheap and even if you stuck to staples and didn't order expensive specials like lobster dumplings then you'd still expect to pay £23/head – 50% more than the norm.

Verdict: A bit of a mixed bag but there was enough promise in the kitchen to consider returning here. Mind you given the prices, it'd have to be for a special treat or on expenses.

Other Stuff: If your budget doesn't stretch to eating here then nearby dim sum options include Phoenix Palace on Glentworth St and a 'regular' branch of Royal China further along Baker St. 

Royal China Club on Urbanspoon


  1. That picture of the cheung fun is making me hungry!

  2. Those noodles look horrid - surprising, considering the decent standard of the rest. £4 for a dumpling is outrageous!

  3. The fried dough stick cheung fun is my absolute favourite dim sum and if it wasn't on the menu I would be well miffed!

  4. GC - the cheung fun was v.well presented - I just wish there was more of it!

    Lizzie - the noodles were the low point although the rip-off lobster dumplings came close.

    Helen - I was miffed too but I guess they thought cheap street style snacks like zhaliang didn't belong on the menu. How wrong they were!

  5. We didn't get to order the coconut moss dumpling when we were there some time back. I can imagine the black sesame oozing out from the dumpling already. :)

    To be honest, I found Royal China Club a bit underwhelming when I was there. In fact, I found the Royal China at Canary Wharf to be much better though that didn't have the same ambience and more of a 'yum cha' venue.

  6. Just reading any of your posts about dim sum is getting me excited about our impending feast...

    I am also going to hunt some good books down on the history of Cantonese food/ Chinese food in general in preparation for it (well more likely HK by the time I get round to reading them)

  7. LC - I wish I took a photo of the coconut moss dumplings with the black sesame oozing out.

    Tom - looking forward to our dim sum feast too !

  8. Great pics, but yes - quite expensive. I love dim sum for Sunday lunch. Did I tell you about the Aussie dim sim last time we spoke? If not, stay tuned for our next meeting...

  9. GDiva - you probably did mention about the Aussie dim sim but I really can't remember!

  10. I heard Royal China Club was just an expensive version of Royal China without matching increased quality of food.

    That ee-fu dish looks pretty horrid actually.

  11. WB - I can see your point as there's only so far you can go with blinging up dim sum like har gau. The noodles were a shocker.