Last month, I was invited along to a bloggers lunch for the relaunch of Hutong’s dim sum lunch menu – while dim sum has been available for a while, much of the media focus and emphasis has been on its signature main dishes (mainly northern Chinese and Sichuan). Dim sum is definitely available at lunch times though (12-3 everyday) and being in the Shard, it’s highly likely that this is dim sum with the best view in London.

I’d not been to Hutong (the original Hutong in the Aqua Restaurant Group is in Hong Kong) nor The Shard before so yes, this was a bit of a treat! Up to the 33rd floor I went and I was then escorted to the restaurant’s entrance with its two lions.



Prior to opening for lunch, we got a tour of the restaurant, with its quirky furnishings (there are washbuckets and original signs from China and even a wall made of tea bricks). We even got a tour of the men’s loos and their (in)famous urinals with a view! It cannot be denied that the views are stunning.

The View

We ended the tour at the bar where cocktails were being made for us. Their cocktail menu is quite fun – all the ingredients are listed with their supposed health benefits (according to Chinese beliefs).


I stuck to something without alcohol – I don’t think this had a name but it was lovely! Not sure how much those berries were going to help me healthwise though!


After drinks, we were ushered to our table – by this time, the restaurant was starting to fill with others there for the dim sum too. A number of teas were offered for us to drink with our dim sum –  we sampled a 2005 Puer tea, a Monkey pick Tie-Guan-Yin and a White Peony. I loved them all, especially the last white tea; the waiters were especially attentive as to what tea you had in your cup and ours brought me an extra cup to sample more than one at a time. Then the dishes started arriving.

Crispy Peking duck rolls were well filled and very prettily presented.

Crispy Peking duck rolls

Both Pan-fried lamb and fennel seed dumplings

Pan-fried lamb and fennel seed dumplings

… and Pan-fried mixed vegetable dumplings were excellent toothsome morsels.

Pan-fried mixed vegetable dumplings

The Crispy shrimp rolls with thousand year egg was one of my favourite things that afternoon with the egg and shrimp nicely balanced with a sliver of pickled ginger.

Crispy shrimp rolls with thousand year egg

Shanghai-style xiao long bao were very good though I’d have preferred it if the filling had been a little bit more compact.

Shanghai-style xiao long bao

Vegetable and bamboo pith dumplings were some of the nicest vegetable dim sum dishes I’d had in London. There was a good and non gloopy mixture of vegetables inside.

Vegetable and bamboo pith dumplings

Spicy minced pork dumplings could have used with a bit more spice! I like them firey. Luckily the homemade chilli oil also provided is excellent.

Spicy minced pork dumplings

Rose champagne shrimp dumplings – you couldn’t taste any champagne but they were still like good har gow.

Rose champagne shrimp dumplings

In addition to the usual dumplings, we were treated to an order of the restaurant’s famous signature dish of Red Lantern crispy soft shell crab with Sichuan dried chilli. This was gorgeous (I absolutely adore soft shell crab though) and packed a gentle amount of heat, despite the plethora of dried chilies in which they swam.

Red Lantern crispy soft shell crab with Sichuan dried chilli

And then there were desserts too! From the dim sum menu came both Steamed egg custard buns

Steamed egg custard buns

… and Mini black sesame glutinous dumplings. I preferred the latter, all soft and chewy. The former had almost solid custard inside – I prefer it more hot and melting, like sweet yellow lava!

Mini black sesame glutinous dumplings

All this would have totaled to a much more affordable price than I expected – £29.25 a head. It’s not too bad, especially if you’re trying to impress someone. However, if you can really pack it in, you might find portion sizes a little on the delicate side.

It was a lovely meal. Thank you very much to Hugh from Hutong for the invitation!

Level 33 The Shard
31 St. Thomas Street
London SE1 9RY

Hutong on Urbanspoon

One of my closest friends has been in London this past year and she very kindly took me for lunch at Min Jiang on my birthday a couple weeks back. With its location on the 10th floor of the Royal Garden Hotel (a hotel whose interior is certainly much nicer than its blocky grey exterior), its views over Kensington Gardens were brilliant; if only the weather that day matched it.

The View

I’d never felt so much like a tai tai (think lady who lunches) that afternoon (leaving work for a long lunch at a swanky restaurant will do that). And as you’d expect in a restaurant like Min Jiang, service was impeccable throughout our lunch.

For our meal, we chose a selection of dim sum and some noodles for the whole birthday thing (their length represents longevity) – their famous Beijing duck would have to wait for another visit. Our first dish, their signature xiao long bao, was excellent. Thin skins gave way to lots of meaty broth and a lovely pork filling; we think they’d coated the base of the steamer with something so that the dumplings wouldn’t stick. With a dab or two of vinegar and ginger, these went down quickly.

Xiao Long Bao

The deep-fried yam croquette with seafood was their delicate version of wu kok. These very dainty bites were delicious but I still think I prefer the more usual robust flavours of a meat filling.

Deep-fried Yam Croquette with Seafood

Har kow had a good prawn filling but the skins were ever so slightly mushy. Roxanne taught me to look out for a good springiness to the har kow wrappers.

Har Kow

The stir-fried turnip cake with XO sauce had a surprising amount of heat and was utterly delicious. Soft chunks of steamed daikon cake had been fried together with the XO sauce and the addition of beansprouts added a great crunchy contrast.

Stir-fried Turnip Cake with XO Sauce

While we were eating, a waiter snuck up behind us, announced the Sichuan dan dan noodles with minced pork and then deposited this on our table.

Uh... Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles with Minced Pork

You could have heard a pin drop.

He then proceeded to giggle at our disbelief and announced that he’d already plated up our noodles and then placed these in front of us. Oh, ha!

A Portion of Dan Dan Noodles

They were very good – more of a light, nutty, sesame laced dan dan noodle dish than the original spicy, oily Sichuan version. They went down easily and were the perfect birthday noodles.

Of course we saved room for dessert. A proper lady who lunches would probably be watching her figure but well, we were just play-acting that day. My fresh mango cream with sago pearls and pomelo was just sweet enough and certainly more mangoey than any mango/pomelo dessert I’ve had in the past. My only quibble would be that more pomelo was needed.

Fresh Mango Cream with Sago Pearls and Pomelo

Roxanne’s fried and steamed black sesame paste dumplings with black sesame ice cream came looking incredibly delicate. Everything was incredibly full of black sesame flavour. Of the two dumplings, the classic steamed dumpling was much better than fried. I loved the steamed dumpling’s soft mochi like texture and its lava-hot black sesame filling.

Fried and Steamed Black Sesame Paste Dumplings with Black Sesame Ice Cream

Was it the best dim sum in London? No, I don’t think so though it was very good and very refined but, gosh, that refinement came with a hefty price. One observation: the strength of the more northern dishes (xiao long bao, dan dan noodles) did lead us to suspect a more northern hand in the kitchen rather than a pure Cantonese one – nothing wrong with that. Overall, our meal there was great – hooray for lovely company and fantastic service and feeling like a tai tai for one afternoon. Thanks very much, Roxanne!

Min Jiang
Royal Garden Hotel
2-24 Kensington High Street
London W8 4PT

Min Jiang on Urbanspoon

The next on the must-eat list for Hong Kong was dim sum, of course! My first dim sum lunch was at City Hall Maxim’s Palace and it started with a queue; about an hour after first getting a number, we finally got a table. It’s certainly a big and fancy place and, surprisingly to me, tea was served in the British style – silver service! And trolleys! I miss trolley dim sum and to have it for the first time in years was great fun. I loved how each trolley had signs that said what each contained.


We had quite the spread and highlights included that bottom dish of steamed beef with black pepper and orange peel, …

…these fried squid tentacles, …

Fried Tentacles

…and excellent siu mai.

Siu Mai

It was all very good, traditional dim sum but I believe that, in London, the dim sum at Pearl Liang or Princess Gardens matches it.

City Hall Maxim’s Palace
3/F, City Hall
5-7 Edinburgh Place
Hong Kong

It was this next place, though, that spoiled me. Tim Ho Wan is most famous for being a budget, hole-in-the-wall dim sum restaurant with a Michelin star in Mongkok. They’re also famous for the crazy crowds that queue for hours to get a table. It’s certainly doing well as it’s now a group (chain?) of three restaurants and it was to the newest branch at Hong Kong station (under the IFC) that we went to have breakfast. At 9-10am on a weekday, it was possible to get a table without having to queue.

Steamed eggplant with soy sauce was delicious and not something I’ve seen at other dim sum lunches.

Steamed Eggplant with Soy Sauce

Pan fried turnip cake was a very good version with lots of thickly shredded daikon radish.

Pan Fried Turnip Cake

The steamed beef balls with bean curd skin were fantastic – these beef balls were meltingly tender and had a great flavour.

Steamed Beef Balls with Bean Curd Skin

While we were deciding what to order, the man next to us leaned over and insisted we had to order his favourite, the malai goh, a steamed egg cake (the name translates to Malay cake though…is it from Malaysia?). I’m not normally a big fan of this cake and the version we had at City Hall Maxim’s Palace was just ok. This one, however, … you can’t see it here but it was amazingly soft and wobbled gently as the steamer was placed on our table. And yes, it was delicious.

Steamed Egg Cake

These char siu baked buns are a must order. They’re just about the best pineapple buns I’ve had – the bread was soft, the crust was intensely buttery and crumbly and the char siu filling was generous and wonderfully saucy. Such tasty tasty goodness.

Baked Buns with BBQ Pork

How much for this gorgeous dim sum? Every dish was only about 12-20 HKD, depending on size; it was a bargain.

I’d originally hoped to visit three dim sum places but after my first visit here, that third place got scratched off the list to make way for another visit to Tim Ho Wan to sample more from their menu.

Of course, we had to have the baked char siu buns again. Here’s the shot of their insides.

Inside the Baked Char Siu Bun

The prawn and chive cheung fun was good but nothing special compared to other dim sum restaurants.

Prawn and Chive Cheung Fun

I wanted to try their “glue dumpling”, an amusing translation for what actually is a large glutinous rice dumpling.

"Glue Dumpling"

This was amazing with its myriad fillings – dried mushrooms, salted egg yolk, slices of meat. Yes, full on slices of meat. I was sad that we just couldn’t finish it – it was very big.

Mmm...Glutinous Rice

We also had to order their har gau (prawn dumplings) after seeing a group of men painstakingly pleating the little things in the kitchen on our last visit. And yes, they were excellent but again, ones of similar quality can be found elsewhere.

Har Gau

I love Tim Ho Wan. This branch at the IFC is great – it’s in no way fancy with its wipe down tables and chairs but the food! It has an open kitchen and it’s possible to see the chefs all at work, making the dim sum that will feed all those in the queue. Did I mention it’s also cheap? Yes, it’s a total bargain for the quality – I now understand its popularity.

Tim Ho Wan
Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station
(Podium Level 1, IFC Mall)
Hong Kong

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.


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

I met up with Kake last week to catch up and share some iron eggs I had. We originally planned to meet at Bea’s in One New Change but when we turned up, it was closed for a private event. Bad luck. We both didn’t know the area very well and so opted to try Ping Pong, a chain of dim sum restaurants that seems to get positive reviews.

Have you seen that Family Guy episode where Stewie gives Brian criticism of his performance at work? And he says that the way to give criticism is to first say something positive and then follow with the negative? Well, that’s how this review is going to go.

Apple and Lime Iced Tea White Peony Tea

Something positive (SP): The cocktail-like drinks were quite pleasant and there’s plenty of choice for those going dry. I had an apple and lime iced tea that was quite refreshing even though the jasmine tea used in there was overbrewed. Actually the place had a nice buzz about it and I can imagine it being a nice place to meet your friends for drinks.

Something negative (SN): They serve their hot teas in the most impractical way. Kake’s tea came in a tall glass with the tea suspended in a bag. The waitress then came over with an obviously very heavy teapot and struggled to pour the hot water into the glass. As it was heavy, she poured it down the side of the glass, missing the tea entirely. Kake had to push the tea down into the water with her chopstick.

Crispy Prawn Balls

crispy prawn balls, served with sweet & sour sauce (£3.99)

SP: The crispy prawn balls weren’t too bad; they were certainly well fried and … crispy. The sweet and sour sauce was weird though.

Crunchy Golden Vegetable Dumpling

crunchy golden vegetable dumpling in yellow turmeric pastry (£3.69)

Chicken and Prawn Dumplings

chicken and prawn dumpling in red cabbage pastry (£3.99)

SN: The wrappers on all the steamed dumplings were horribly mushy and sticky. And the dishes arrived quite quickly after ordering, leading me to suspect that lots of dumplings are presteamed and then left on the steamer to keep warm. The turmeric pastry of the vegetable dumplings too was much too strong and overpowering. Perhaps we ordered the wrong dumplings, we thought, and so ordered the siu mai to see – no, those weren’t great either.

Scallop & Shitake Dumplings

scallop & shitake dumpling (£3.59)

King Prawn & Scallop Sticky Rice

king prawn & scallop sticky rice (£3.99)

SP: The sticky rice in a lotus leaf was alright though I have had better versions.

SN: All the fillings were chopped up quite finely. Prawn and scallop? More like prawn and scallop mince. I could just about make out the prawn but the scallop I couldn’t taste at all. All the meats were minced in this way giving the dim sum fillings a strange texture and making me feel like I was getting ripped off. Everything was pretty much edible though… except for those vegetable dumplings that were all sorts of wrong.

Fish and Black Pepper Dumplings

fish & black pepper dumpling, served with hoi sin sauce (£3.59)

SP: OK, I’m running out of positive things to say now. As Kake pointed out, there’s step free access to the restaurant!

SN: There’s carrot in everything! The siu mai had pureed carrot on top! The vegetable dumplings had lots of carrot in them! Minced carrot in the sticky rice! There was carrot everywhere!

King Prawn and Scallop Shu Mai

seafood shu mai, king prawns & scallops topped with carrot (£3.49)

SP: The mango pudding wasn’t bad; it was a little denser than I would have liked but still, it was nice and fruity and was served like an island in a coconut milk sea.

Mango Pudding with Coconut Milk

mango pudding, with coconut milk (£3.19)

SN: The price. Our bill came to around £40 between the two of us; that’s quite possibly the most expensive dim sum I’ve ever had (considering the amount and quality of the food). I won’t be returning.

Curious about the iron eggs? They’re from Taiwan and were brought back from Taipei by a colleague who went there for work. These are hard boiled quail eggs that have been simmered in a soy sauce mixture and dried and simmered and dried repeatedly until they take on a most unworldly colour and texture: black and hard and chewy on the outside and creamy and fudgy on the inside. I quite liked them!

Ping Pong
1 Bread Street
London EC4M 9BE
(There are other branches.)

Ping Pong Bow Bells House on Urbanspoon