A walk along Earl's Court Road is quite soul-destroying if you're a food snob (or even if you're not). Wagamama, Masala Zone, Zizzi, McDonalds, Nando's, Costa, Starbucks and KFC – the usual chain suspects that blight the streets of London are all present and correct.
So it's a pleasant surprise to see a decent Chinese restaurant in this corner of the capital. Dragon Palace might look like a regulation High St Chinese but scratch beneath the surface and you'll discover some very interesting dim sum and noodle dishes. This isn't a new opening; it's been around for a few years but it just hasn't caught the eye of many bloggers or critics.
Joining me for lunch were fellow bloggers Su-Lin and Gourmet Chick, we all live out west so this was a handy spot to meet. Unbelievably, both of my dining companions had previously been to this restaurant, albeit off the blog and not for dim sum. And there was me thinking that I'd found somewhere far from the blogging crowd!
星州炒銀針粉 Fried 'Needle Noodles' Singapore style (£5.80)
'Needle noodles' originate from Southern China and are also very popular amongst the Chinese communities of Singapore and Malaysia. Their proper name is silver needle noodles (银针粉) and they're also known as rat noodles (老鼠粉) because they're tapered like a rat's tail.
These noodles are rarely seen in the UK and I was curious as to their sourcing. Stupid question really, as the noodles are hand-made on the premises. I'm not sure how they manage to make them so translucent, as these noodles are usually made out of rice flour.
We ordered the fried 'Needle Noodles' Singapore style, which is essentially that old classic, Singapore noodles. This dish is a guilty pleasure of mine and you can't go far wrong with it. Reassuringly yellow-tinged from the curry powder, these noodles were a fine accompaniment to our dim sum feast.
The Steamed Stuff
家鄉魚米粿 gar herng yee mai gor Village dumplings (£2.50)
蝦餃 har gau Prawn dumplings (£2.50)
帶子蝦餃 har dai tze gau Scallop & prawn dumplings (£2.60)
花枝片 fa ji pin Steamed squid & garlic (£2.20)
叉燒包 cha siu bau Honey roast pork buns (£2.20)
Weekend Special - Steamed pork belly & taro bun (£3.20)
|Squid & garlic|
|Pork belly & taro bun|
芋角 wu gok Yam croquettes (£2.40)
墨魚餅 mut yu beng Squid cakes (£2.30)
Weekend Special - Red bean paste dessert (£3.20)
蘿蔔糕 loh bak goh Turnip paste with wind-dried meat (£2.20)
豉油王煎腸粉 ci yau wong tsin cheung fun Pan-fried dried shrimp cheung fun (£2.50)
|Red bean paste dessert|
|Pan-fried cheung fun|
Dragon Palace looks very ordinary from the outside and by the standards of Chinese restaurant design is quite minimalist. The service was good in an unassuming way and they didn't rush us out of the door when we finished.
The presentation of the lunch menu is highly praiseworthy being in English, Chinese characters and transliterated Cantonese. It also has pictures and a brief description of each dish. In addition to the Cantonese dim sum, the menu has a definite Straits Chinese influence with the likes of char kway teow and nasi goreng making an appearance.
The bill was a mere £41 between the three of us including tea and 12.5% service – that's less than £14/head. In comparison, Chinatown prices are about the same but you'll be hard pushed to find the same quality. Whilst a similar sized feast at one of the more heavyweight dim sum joints such as Pearl Liang, Phoenix Palace, or Royal China might cost nearer the £20/head mark.
Dragon Palace deserves plaudits for doing things a little differently. I think it's brilliant that they go to the trouble to make their own noodles as well as knock up weekend specials. This is an accessible and affordable option for quality dim sum, especially for those with a W in their postcode.
Dragon Palace, 207 Earl's Court Rd, London SW5 9AN (Tel 020 7370 1461)
Nearest tube: Earl's Court