London, W2 4QJ
Tel: 020 7221 2535
Food type: Chinese
Food rating: 3/10
Nearest tube: Queensway
Website: Royal China
The Royal China group of restaurants is enormously popular and successful chain famed for their dim sum. With 6 branches and counting, dotted around London it is undeniable that this eatery is going strong. This includes a more luxurious Royal China Club on Baker Street which is more expensive than the other branches although the quality of food is on the same level. We visited the original outlet at Queensway.
As alluded to earlier, Royal China is wildly popular for its dim sum which is served daily. The restaurant does not take bookings for lunch (when dim sum is served) on Saturdays and Sundays, although reservations can be made for all other times. If you wish to dine on a Sunday, be sure to get there early – the restaurant opens at 11.00am and a queue starts forming 10 minutes before. Get there late, and you are assured a long queue which may span outside the restaurant. Not a good idea during with London’s unpredictable weather.
The flagship branch of Royal China at Queensway is but a 10 metre walk from the tube station. Outlined elegantly in black and gold, the restaurant is pretty conspicuous with its flashing ‘Dim Sum Daily’ sign. While deceptively small on the outside, the restaurant opens into a large, spacious dining room, which stretches almost endlessly towards the back. The decor within whisks you back in time to the 70s with its black and gold lacquered walls, mirrors and reflective black ceiling. As part of the Chinese New Year celebrations, the restaurant was also decorated in the mandatory sea of red.
The Dim Sum menu is relatively short with the usual staples available. Each item is invidually priced between £2.65 and £4.20. A special Chinese New Year menu with a few fancifully named items (assuming you can read Mandarin) was also available. Dim sum here is served in traditional bamboo steamers.
From the variety of steamed items tried, the best of the lot was the bean curd parcels stuffed with dried oysters. These were silky smooth and packed full of the distinctive flavour of the dried oysters which is a Chinese delicacy. (4/10)
The Scallop and Tau Miu (a type of Chinese pea shoot) dumpling suffered from hard, sticky rice paper wrap. The delicate, sweet taste of scallops was lost amidst the glut of carbohydrate. (1/10)
Steamed pork buns was passable – the bun moist and light with good amounts of sweet, sticky roast pork filling. By no means was this as fluffy or light as the best I have encountered in Hong Kong. (4/10)
Har Gao benefited from a slight twist with the addition of some minced chives giving the dumpling a refreshing, grassy note. Unfortunately, the signs of mass production were evident, with the wrap thick and not as translucent and delicate as it should be. As a matter of comparison, the Har Gao served at Min Jiang demonstrated more deft in touch. (3/10)
Siu Mai also suffered from incorrect timing – while the filling of pork and shrimps were still moist and juicy, the dumplings themselves were clumped together – a sign that they were left to stand for too long before being served. (1/10)
Steamed spare ribs had good flavour of black bean sauce spiked with a bit of chilli. However, like many Chinese restaurants, the pork used were not of the best quality and over-tenderized with copious amounts of corn flour. The meat itself was lacking in good pork flavour. (2/10)
Lotus wrapped glutinous rice was timed perfectly – the rice moist and slightly sticky with good, strong flavours infused from the lotus leaves and the condiments it was wrapped with. I was happy that they kept the dish authentic with ingredients such as Chinese sausages and dehydrated mushrooms. (5/10)
Roast Pork Puff was delectable – with flakey, buttery pastry encasing the roast pork. (5/10)
Cheung Fun was enjoyable but unspectacular. The Royal china Cheung Fun is a mixture of Prawn, Roast Pork and Beef filled cheung fun. The noodles were again not as thin translucent as they should be, nor were they as generously filled. (3/10)
Very enjoyable was the fried ho fun which showcased good ‘wok hei’ (or wok heat). The advertised ‘shrimps’ were instead large tiger prawns… not that I am complaining. The prawns themselves were timed perfectly remaining sweet and crisp. A silky smooth texture was achieved by the addition of egg white to the dish. (5/10)
Less good was the Shanghai-style braised noodle in a spicy meat sauce. The dish was, in my opinion, very one dimensional without the complexity usually associated with it. The shredded pork and dried scallops (a very strong flavour to begin with) were completely drowned out in the sea of chilli. (1/10)
Egg tarts were very good indeed. You will have to fly to Hong Kong if you want egg tarts better than this. The egg custard filling timed perfectly and just set with a wobbly texture, encased by rich, buttery pastry. (5/10)
Mango pudding was in contrast forgettable without a strong mango flavour and texture more akin to mozzarella than a silky smooth piece of tofu. (1/10)
Service here was friendly and efficient. Despite a long queue forming spanning outside the door, we were at no point rushed.
Overall, our meal at Royal china was good but never spectacular. Coming here, I was expecting a lot given the hype about their Dim Sum. One food critic whom I highly respect claimed ‘No need to go to Hong Kong now that you can eat equally well here.’ Perhaps a bit of a bold statement – the dim sum here, is at best, equivalent of a mediocre place in Hong Kong. I suppose given the price, the food was fair value for my money. Ultimately though, I don’t think the food here is good enough to warrant the long queue… or waking up early for.