Chinese New Year is upon us (Monday 8th - and it's the Year Of The Monkey FYI) and, let's face it, a dim sum feast feels like the only sensible way to celebrate.
To help you make a smart choice, we've narrowed down our favourite restaurants serving London's best steamed, baked and fried buns and small bites, packed with everything from beef cannelloni to black truffle and jelly fish.
1 | Hakkasan
London's legendary mecca for 'cool' cantonese dining remains hard to beat if you're in the market for 'special occasion' dim sum, which hits the sweet spot for atmosphere, presentation and most importantly taste. With the newer Mayfair venue and the original and atmospheric Hanway Place to choose from, both offer special set dim sum menus which include cocktails for surprisingly good value blow-outs.
Hakkasan Mayfair, 17 Bruton Street, W1J 6QB, hakkasan.com
2 | Royal China
Over the last nineteen years, Royal China has grown to a total of six branches in the capital, all of them currently being watched over by head chef Man Yuk Cheung. Baker Street houses the company's flagship branch, but all restaurants promise the same up-market décor, excellent staff and a brand new dim sum menu that debuted last year. Prices are also extremely reasonable, so you needn't feel bad about following your pan-fried Gyozas with beef cheung fun, and, for dessert, steamed sweet egg custard buns.
Royal China's flagship can be found at 24-26 Baker Street, W1U 3BZ, rcguk.co.uk
3 | Mama Lan’s Chinese
Nestled among the stalls of Brixton Village Market is Mama Lan's, a family run Chinese restaurant with its roots in the street markets of Beijing. This means each dim sum recipe has travelled over 5,000 miles to your plate and comes with 40 years of experience. For the full experience, go for the king prawn and Chinese water chestnut dumplings, washed down with a Lychee orchard mocktail.
Unit 18, Brixton Village Market, mamalan.co.uk
4 | Phoenix Palace
Serving dim sum and Chinese cuisine to the residents of Marylebone, Phoenix Palace boasts an expansive menu of 50 dim sum pieces. The octopus patty is a good place to start, while the weekend special BBQ suckling pig with jelly fish is a must-try. Keep an eye out for familiar faces too – Phoenix Palace has a whole wall dedicated to snaps of its famous patrons.
Phoenix Palace Chinese Restaurant 5 Glentworth Street, NW1 5PG, phoenixpalace.co.uk
5 | Bo Lang
Nestled away in Kensington, this atmospheric yet casual restaurant specialises in new takes on the dim sum classic. This means Sichuan pepper squid, seasonal local crab with balsamic pearls and chicken and black truffle Shui Mai, all at a reasonable price. Bo Lang also boasts a selection of black, red, blue, green and herbal teas, you can enjoy your dim sum in the traditional Chinese meaning of ‘going to drink tea’.
100 Draycott Avenue, SW3 3AD, bolangrestaurant.co.uk
6 | Shanghai Dalston
Built on what used to be an old pie and eel shop – with original tile décor and booths still in place, Shanghai Dalston is one of the best reasons to head east. Also operating as one of the area’s best takeaways, it’s well worth grabbing a table and settling down for some steamed beancurd rolls with ham, chicken, mushroom and lotus roots. If that’s not enough of an incentive, they also offer a dim sum workshop, plus regular karaoke nights – this is East London, after all.
41 Kingsland High Street, E8 2JS, shanghaidalston.co.uk
7 | China Tang
The Dorchester’s resident dim sum restaurant, China Tang looks slightly like the beginning of Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, with plush 1920s-style Shanghai décor. Unfortunately, Short Round and Indy don’t make an appearance, but the taro cakes, roast pork buns and beef cannelloni dim sum more than make up for it.
China Tang at The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, W1K 1QA, chinatanglondon.co.uk
8 | Drunken Monkey
Now in it’s 13th year, Shoreditch eatery/cocktail venue Drunken Monkey is the place to go if you want to make your meal into an experience. While the venue’s name is represented in the daily happy hour (usually a two hour special, but an all-day extravaganza on Sundays) it’s the prawn and pork dumplings we’re interested in. Rumours of a Chinese Elvis impersonator remain unconfirmed.
222 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6PJ, thedrunkenmonkey.london
9 | Yauatcha
It's been just over 10 years since Hakkasan's Alan Yau opened this Soho sister restaurant next to Broadwick Street market. Set over two stylishly decked out floors and with a wide and varied dim sum selection, including its legendary venison puff, it now has a deserved michelin star to its name.
15-17 Broadwick Street, W1F 0DL, yauatcha.com
10 | Shanghai Blues
If you don’t mind venturing into The City, Holborn’s Shanghai Blues should become your new lunch venue of choice. Dimly lit and all dark wood, it’s the perfect place to conspire over yam croquettes, quail egg and seafood Sao Mai and pan-fried beef buns.
193-197 High Holborn, WC1V 7BD, shanghaiblues.co.uk
11 | Fu Manchu
Primarily known for its collar-up inhabitants and sticky floored nightclubs, Clapham might just become the next stop on your culinary tour of South London thanks to new late-night dim sum restaurant, Fu Manchu.
Refreshingly, the staff recommendations are on point and ordering is as easy as ticking off your selections on a paper order card (pencils are provided). Forget what you thought you knew about dim sum with the Monkfish and Phoenix Eye dumplings, followed by the Tai Chi Bo Coy Gow (that’s fresh scallops in a crystal green, spinach infused package). After four or five plates, wash the whole thing down with a Mancho’s Mind Control - an oriental take on the zombie - served on fire in the head of Fu Manchu himself.
To finish, the Jai Lai Wong Bao is a must - custard filled crispy balls painstakingly crafted to resemble dragon fruit. What more could you need?
15-16 Lendal Terrace, London SW4 7UX, 020 3397 8844, fumanchu.co.uk