Ahead of Chinese New Year, we visited London's Royal China to see what's on offer for hungry families
Royal China restaurant, Queensway
Feeling inspired by the impending Chinese New Year, and full to the eyebrows with turkey and stuffing (and anything else nearing on 'traditionally festive' British grub), we decided to trial the Royal China restaurant in Queensway. This branch was the first in the chain of what is now seven restaurants, and is located exactly inbetween Queensway and Bayswater tube stations. It is also surrounded by many Asian supermarkets and other eateries - a good sign that this is a place that should know a 'bum' Dim Sum from a choice one.
Royal China is, in fact, renowned for it's flavoursome Dim Sum, which is much-loved by the local Chinese community as well as many visiting reviewers, and is the most likely thing you will find written about if researching the place. We had all hungrily been eyeing up the menu before our visit, and talked ourselves into at least trying some of the more unusual ones. Unluckily for us, the restaurant only serves Dim Sum at lunchtime, not dinner. Less 'Dim Sum', more 'dim mum'...
However, the kids had already spied crispy shredded duck on the menu and were practically salivating; so the loss of tasting a veritable delicacy was already forgotten in light of the thought of wolfing down a dozen duck pancakes.
Royal China restaurant, Queensway
The traditionally painted wall decorations are pretty, but atmosphere was not Royal China's initial strong point and the decor is perhaps a little tired. Although, the friendly and attentive staff quickly made up for the lack of background buzz.
Also, soon after our arrival, the large room was filled with busy tables, more than half of which were occupied by young families. There was even a large, and very vocal, birthday party of girls, who made up their own table while the adults sat alongside at a table of their own.
The evening menu is extensive, and a hush fell around the table while we tried to digest it all. If we were to be missing out on the Dim Sum, then we needed to order smart. A disappointing portion of egg fried rice and sweet and sour could taint the whole evening. Needless to say, there was something to suit every taste and the staff helped us order dishes to suit our tastes. There isn't a kids menu, per se, but the sharing nature of the food means everyone can help themselves to how much they would like.
A table full at Royal China
Our table had diners with varying levels of spice tolerance. But we decided to order 'family style', and agreed on a few dishes we could all share - tempting the non-spice lovers (i.e me) into pushing our boundaries. The succulent, crispy duck was placed on the table like a prized trophy and shredded in front of us. After which, dish after dish was placed around the table until no more would fit. Here's a good tip: come hungry. Nothing is sadder than having to refuse a delectable dumpling just because you ate too much at lunchtime.
Our dishes were flavoursome and zingy in the right places, not too sticky or too greasy, and most importantly everything was freshly cooked. The kids' wide eyes wandered over to the table of Chinese diners beside us, who were being served up a whole fish, complete with head and tail. Maybe something to try next time... But for now, we were satisfied with our order of crispy chilli beef in a crispy rice noodle basket, sweet and sour pork, spicy chilli and garlic chicken dumplings, special fried rice and a mandatory serving of mint ice cream to finish off.
They say the devil is in the detail, and I think we fell down here on our lack of planning around the timing of our visit - i.e. when Dim Sum would be served. If you fancy trying it for yourself, the Dim Sum menu is served between 12 noon and 5pm.
Where: 13 Queensway, London, W2 4QJ
Call: 0207 221 2535
Sunday: 11:00am - 10:00pm
Monday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm
Tuesday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm
Wednesday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm
Thursday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm
Friday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm
Saturday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm
Opening hours may vary on public and bank Holidays. Please call to verify.
Royal China Group is renowned for its Dim Sum, which is served daily from 12 noon until 5pm, and includes favourites such as Steamed Seafood Dumplings with Spicy Sauce; and Pan-fried Fillet of Duck Breast Rolls.
Here are some handy do's and don'ts compiled by the chefs:
What to do
· Do eat each dim sum dumpling in one go to get the full flavour. It is also less messy!
· Do drink tea with dim sum and never order other hot drinks such as coffee as it can overpower the taste of the dim sum. Tea is the most important factor when eating dim sum, and we recommend ordering Jasmine or Chrysanthemum tea. It is best to drink the tea with fried or baked dim sum to wash it down and cleanse the digestion system of the oils.
· Do always pour others tea before your own, as this is tradition in China.
· Do tap your index fingeron the table to thank the person pouring the tea. This is a recognised symbol of “bowing” in China and was invented by an emperor.
· Do order a lot of different dishes and share between the table for a variety of flavours. When eating dim sum order rice as it is a good way to cleanse your palate.
What not to do
· Don’t use your own chopsticks to serve yourself from the communal bowls.
· Don’t save dessert until last. It is acceptable to request a dessert dish in the middle of the meal such as Egg Custard Tarts. As the tea freshens your palate diners can mix sweet and savoury dishes.
· Don’t eat dim sum cold, it needs to be eaten hot. It should not be left to cool and it should be eaten within 15 minutes of being served. Start with fried dim sum then steamed as the fried dim sum cools quicker. Royal China serves dim sum in steam baskets with a lid to preserve the temperature.