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Royal China Review
January 14, 2015
Candid decides to check out Royal China, Baker Street, the most often recommended and hyped up Dim Sum restaurant in London. We came away with a bad taste in our mouths and the unshakeable understanding that it has been resting on its laurels for far too long.
Stepping into Royal China, just off Baker Street, we were immediately struck by the sheer size of the restaurant, with its ability to house up to 150 seated guests. As we made our way through, passed the numerous large round tables to our seat near the back, we found ourselves in what we could only describe as a spacious and relaxed version of the famous Chinatown venues, with a more tempered colour palette and a slightly dated yet relevant décor.
A first glance at the menu shows that, like so many of those central restaurants, the fare on offer was traditional Hong Kong style dishes with a few “Western tourist” plates on offer. We elected to steer clear of most of these and stick with the dim sum.
The Honey Roast Pork Cheung Fun was fragrant and flavoursome, if not a bit soggy. The Deep-fried Aubergine & Fish rolls with Chilli sauce, which we had been recommended, were less successful, with the white fish appearing quite overcooked whilst the aubergine was near raw. Unlike the cheung fun, the flavours were not quite right and the dish was sadly a bit of a disappointment. The Steamed Minced Pork Balls with Abalone Sauce was better realised but they did not seem fresh and the meat quality was questionable.
We had yet to be impressed by any of the dishes but the restaurant was starting to fill up with families and business lunches, so we continued, people-watching as we did to pass the extensive periods of time between when we were able to grab the waitresses attention and when our dishes arrived. The Chicken & Mushroom Buns were beautifully spiced but the ratio of bun to filling made them heavy and somewhat bland in the end. By the time that the Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaves arrived, we were prepared for the dish to be overcooked – as this can easily happen and our experience so far had not instilled us with confidence. We were right. The Fried Minced Squid Balls were oily and incredibly tough, not to mention flavourless and, whilst the Sesame Prawn Rolls were good, they did little to appease our rumbling stomachs at this point.
As we waited for our final two dishes to arrive, we contemplated the Royal Summer Drinks (a promotion that had been extended); they were essentially Bubble tea-style fruit drinks that you could choose to spike with your favourite tipple. We decided not to, instead waving frantically at servers who ignored us whilst balancing trays for other tables on our chair tops and talking to each other as they waited for waitresses to unload the dishes – we must admit that we found the need for two individuals to carry out such deliveries quite baffling, especially when the service was so slow.
We eventually got the attention of a waitress who said that our remaining dishes hadn’t been ordered, despite them being on our receipt which had been placed on our table. She asked if we still wanted them and as we weren’t in a hurry, we said ‘Yes’. When they arrived, the Crab Meat Dumplings were falling apart in the soup they came in, with the meat inside them smelling and tasting of that type of “fishy” that never bodes well. The Fried Yam Pate Meat Dumplings – usually a favourite of ours, were bland and at this stage we had given up on asking for some chilli to go with them as the first two requests had gone unmet.
All in all, whilst Royal China has a reputation for being a relaxed and vibrant space for families and group dining, we are unable to recommend it. Until we find something better, you will just have to brave the crowds and bustle of Chinatown, if you’re looking for that dim sum fix.
Vicky Ilankovan – Lifestyle Editor