I walked by Princess Garden of Mayfair for the first time about two years ago and while I immediately recognised that it was a popular place for dim sum, I assumed that it was quite expensive – this Chinese restaurant being located in the not exactly budget neighbourhood of Mayfair! Mr Noodles organised a recent dim sum lunch there and I joined in, keen to try the food as I’d heard good things.

Seven of us gathered one Saturday afternoon there, all hungry for dim sum. Quite the spread was ordered and these were the particular highlights/most interesting dishes to me. First to arrive were the baked char siu buns with their glossy tops and heavily sauced filling. Mr Noodles has said that this is the first place in London he’s found these that are more commonly found in Hong Kong.

Baked Char Sui Pork Buns

Their wu kok, a fluffy fried taro pastry with a meat filling, a firm favourite of mine, was very good and especially fluffy.

Wu Kok

Mr Noodles was raving about the golden cuttlefish cheung fun and so of course, we had to try it! I had no idea what to expect (I think images of golden tentacles waving out from the cheung fun filled my mind) and so was pleasantly surprised to find a tube of cuttlefish paste wrapped first with a fried tofu skin wrapper and then encased in the cheung fun. What a great variety of textures – bouncy, crispy and slippery smooth – and yes, it was tasty too.

Golden Cuttlefish Cheung Fun

Inside the Cheung Fun

I was also quite taken by this pan fried sticky rice; again, I had no idea what to expect and what turned up was large sticky rice patties fried with egg on one side. I quite liked them though I missed the ritual unwrapping required when having sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves.

Pan Fried Sticky Rice

Of all the steamed and boiled dumplings we tried, my favourite was this prawn and chive dumpling. I didn’t think the siu mai or the har gow were the best I’ve had but they were passable.

Prawn and Chive Dumpling

Oh dear, we did order a lot of food (the photo below is only halfway through the meal)! That pan fried turnip cake on the lower left was also excellent.

Dim Sum Table

We couldn’t leave without sampling some of their desserts. Clockwise from the left, we have little pumpkin pastries, egg custard tarts (dan tat) and pineapple custard buns. (There’s no actual pineapple in a pineapple bun – the name comes from the look of the biscuit topping.) My favourite was the pumpkin pastries which weren’t too sweet but had a nice chewy texture but the pineapple bun seemed to be the most popular with the rest of the table.

Desserts

With all the food we ordered (bloated stomachs go!) plus the location of the restaurant, I certainly didn’t expect my part of the bill to be under £20 but it was! ‘Twas a fun lunch and I rolled out of there vowing to return again for more of their novel dim sum. Bookings are probably essential.

Princess Garden of Mayfair
8-10 North Audley Street
London W1K 6ZD

Princess Garden on Urbanspoon

Last Saturday, I met up with both Mr Noodles and Gourmet Chick at Dragon Palace in Earls Court; Mr Noodles had organised for us to meet over an excellent dim sum lunch. When he suggested it originally, the name of the restaurant seemed strangely familiar to me and it soon transpired why – I used to live near Earl’s Court and the restaurant has been sitting there in front of the tube station for years. I even ate there one a very long time ago and I remembered that it wasn’t very good; we used to frequent another local Chinese restaurant instead but since then, that place has become an estate agent. Dragon Palace’s current website says that the management has changed since then and the menu definitely looked different and actually quite inviting. While I was looking forward to the lunch, I couldn’t help but be a little bit wary still; luckily, my fears all came to nothing.

It was a chilly day when we lunched and the warm and cosy restaurant was packed; Mr Noodles had made a reservation beforehand and I would recommend it to anyone heading there for dim sum. The dim sum menu wasn’t very long but it was illustrated which definitely helped in the selection of dishes; don’t you hate it when a lot of the dishes are given different English names at different restaurants? It helps to see what you’re ordering! Our selections were all ticked off on the order form and we sat back and waited for our lunch to appear.

First to arrive was this trio of steamed dumplings: Prawn Dumplings (aka Har Gow, £2.50), Scallop and Prawn Dumplings (£2.60), and Village Dumplings (£2.50). These all gave a good first impression to the restaurant; both the prawn dumplings and scallop and prawn dumplings were generously filled with big flavourful prawns. The village dumpling (with the chive tie) was delicious with its sticky and chewy wrapping and thick, saucy fish filling.

Steamed Stuff

The Turnip Paste w/Wind-Dried Meat (£2.20) were well made with lots of shredded daikon radish.

Turnip Paste w/Wind-Dried Meat

The Honey Roast Pork Buns (char siu baos, £2.20) were also very good.

Char Siu Bao

Char Siu Bun Innards

A more unusual offering was the Steamed Squid and Garlic (£2.20). The squid itself wasn’t bad (though I still prefer the more usual deep fried squid) but the garlic sauce smothering the tentacles was wonderful and full of well…. garlic.

Steamed Squid and Garlic

Pan-fried Dried Shrimp Cheung Fun (£2.20) made for a bit of a change from the usual steamed cheung fun. They were smaller, tightly rolled up sheets of rice noodle pan fried, which forms a bit of a crust on the outside that’s both ever so slightly chewy and good.

Pan-fried Dried Shrimp Cheung Fun

The fried Squid Cakes (£2.30) were unidentifiable at first due to their wrapping of bean curd skin which had become very crispy after frying. The squid cake inside was a good tender/bouncy texture.

Squid Cakes

After the large portions of everything that came before, the Yam Croquettes (£2.40) came out looking positively minute. Luckily, they were excellent with a tasty meaty filling and not too thick yam coating; they were even freshly fried!

Wu Kok

Apart from the dim sum, there was the main reason we were here – silver needle noodles – a noodle that none of us had encountered anywhere else in London but that Mr Noodles discovered this restaurant served. They aren’t literally silver, of course, but a translucent, short, tapered-ended noodle made of rice flour that also known as rat’s tail noodles. Rather impressively, they make them in-house (which I think all the dim sum is too). We ordered them Singapore style, so stir fried with plenty of curry powder, bean sprouts, eggs, onions, peppers and shrimps (£5.80). The noodles were lovely – all soft and quite pleasingly shaped like earthworms.

Fried Needle Noodles Singapore Style

Needle Noodles

But we weren’t finished with the dim sum! Every weekend, the restaurant offers two special dim sum dishes. Due to a bit of a mixup, we received the sweet Special B – Pan fried pancake with red bean paste (£3.20) instead of the savoury one. I opted to keep it as it had been a while since I had this treat. While not the best rendition I’ve ever had, this pancake was still very good, with a very generous filling of red bean paste.

Fried Pancake with Red Bean Paste

The savoury Special A – Steamed Pork Belly & Taro Bun (£3.20) did make our way to the table after this. A thick slice of pork belly and a much thinner one of taro were nestled within the bun, making for quite luscious eating. Maybe too luscious – I wish my bit of pork belly had a bit more meat and bit less fat and that the taro slice was thicker to balance against the flavour and texture of the pork belly. Still, not bad for a weekend special dim sum dish; it looks like both specials change each weekend.

Pork Belly and Taro Buns

Pork Belly and Taro Buns Innards

With tea and service, the bill worked out to only £14 a head – a real bargain for dim sum as we were so so full after the meal. The dim sum here is all excellent and while not as refined as some of the fancier places in London, the flavour certainly doesn’t suffer. What a wonderful place; I can certainly see myself visiting again. Thank you again, Mr Noodles (and his post on the meal, with the Chinese names of the dim sum dishes!, is here), for organising this lovely lunch!

Snowman with Chopsticks!

Dragon Palace
207 Earls Court Road
London SW5 9AN

Dragon Palace on Urbanspoon

Not having had dim sum in a long time, I organised a lunch at Pearl Liang this past Monday for me, Blai and my brother, who was visiting us last weekend. I’d been to this excellent Cantonese restaurant three times for banquet dinners for work but never been myself for what I’d heard was some terrific dim sum.

Here’s a rundown of what we ate:

Yam Croquette, also known as wu kok. This came quite quickly and it was fresh from the fryer. A thin layer of yam paste (which fries up all flaky on the surface) encased a tasty meaty filling – this is one of the best renditions I’ve had in London.

Yam Croquettes

Fried Octopus Cakes. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this – what arrived was a fried cake of octopus/fish paste. Its texture was wonderfully bouncy and there was a good octopus flavour – gorgeous!

Fried Octopus Cakes

King Prawn Cheung Fun. Very nice though I thought the rice sheet could have been a little smoother. But it’s hard to complain when they stuff it with this many king prawns! The sweet soy sauce is poured onto the dish at the table.

King Prawn Cheung Fun

Barbecued Pork Cheung Fun. As above, very good.

Barbecued Pork Cheung Fun

Pan Fried Turnip Cake, aka loh bak goh. This is also one of my absolute favourites – a steamed daikon radish and rice flour cake is sliced and then pan fried. These usually have some barbecued pork bits and dried prawns in the mixture (a plain version is used as the basis of chai tow kueh). In this excellent version, it was nice to encounter nice large shreds of daikon within.

Pan Fried Turnip Cake

Prawn Dumplings, or har gow. Large juicy prawns featured within this dumpling – very very nice. One of my must-orders!

Prawn Dumplings

Mini Sticky Rice with Mixed Meat in Lotus Leaf. I expected this to have the usual filling of minced meat and perhaps some salted egg yolk. However, I was surprised to see a very generous filling of all this and a whole king prawn too!

Mini Sticky Rice with Mixed Meat in Lotus Leaf

Monks Vegetable Dumpling. We wanted to try one of the vegetarian items and so ordered this. I felt though that this was the least successful dumpling – is corn normally used?

Monks Vegetable Dumplings

Pork Shu Mai. Weirdly enough, this is not one of my favourites as I always thought it a bit dull but it’s one of those dim sum dishes that you just have to order. There was so much prawn in each sui mai, it was actually a bit difficult telling where the pork was. Nice!

Pork Shu Mai

Fried Dough Cheung Fun. We wanted another cheung fun! The fried dough is what I know as yau char kway and the cruller is wrapped in the steamed rice sheet. This must be eaten immediately or else you lose that contrast between soft, silky cheung fun and crispy yet tender fried dough. I like it but my favourite is still that with the prawns!

Fried Dough Cheung Fun

Shanghai Dumplings with Pork, or xiao long bao. The skins were a little thicker than those at Leong’s Legends but this was not necessarily a bad thing – for one thing, I was actually able to pick my dumpling up without piercing it and losing all that wonderful soup. We slurped the soup and downed the dumplings – delicious.

Shanghai Dumplings with Pork

Baked Egg Tarts, aka dan tat. We had to have something sweet at the end! Great flaky pastry and a smooth set egg custard – it was a fine end to the meal.

Baked Egg Tarts

After we finished eating, we were puzzled when the waitress suddenly had us hold up our teacups so she could roll up the tablecloth – were we being kicked out? But no, she was just taking off the dirty top layer so we could relax with the nice clean cloth below! Of course, we pretty much cracked up at the sight of it as all the tea that was spilled had seeped through, rendering the bottom cloth just as stained as the top! And they didn’t chase us out and let us relax over our tea. The biggest surprise was when the bill arrived (when we asked! Not just plonked down!). Our total with tea (£1 per person) and service charge came to exactly £36.70. That’s just about £12 a person!

It definitely wouldn’t hurt to book a table – I booked through the system on their site, which even sends a confirmation text message to your phone almost instantaneously.

Pearl Liang
8 Sheldon Square
Paddington
London W2 6EZ

Pearl Liang on Urbanspoon

It’s becoming increasing apparent that some of the best food in Vancouver is Asian. Dim sum, anyone?

Har Kow

Char Siu Cheung Fun

Mango Pudding Tarts

This was all eaten at Sun Sui Wah, one of the best Cantonese restaurants in Vancouver. The dim sum quality was top-notch and the price was much lower than we all expected. The only sad thing was that I couldn’t eat one of my favourites – wu kok – as they had run out! All the photos from our lunch can be found on my Flickr photostream.

Sun Sui Wah
3888 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
Canada

Sun Sui Wah on Urbanspoon

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