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Monday, May 29, 2006

HARBOUR CITY: DIRE DIM SUM ON A DAY OFF.






There is a fairy tale about the three little pigs and the big bad wolf. The denouement, if my memory serves me well, has the sleeping wolf having his stomach opened to free the piggies within and having them replaced with rocks. He awakes, staggers to the nearest river for a drink, falls in and drowns.

After today’s lunch at Harbour City, I know just how he feels. I am pretty sure I ate pig, but I came out of there feeling like I had eaten rocks.

I have always rather liked Harbour City. As the more basic dim sum houses go, it has always offered up very decent dumplings and fried food that seemed to be a notch above others on the same street.

So today, when HP suggested lunch in The West End, Harbour City seemed like as good a choice as any. What a shame as it turned out all to be pretty poor ranging from "blah" to "yuk".

We always order a pretty large amount of dumplings and fried food and supplement this with plates of roast pork and duck. No change today.

A range of steamed dumplings ( Har Kau, Siu Mai, Char Sui Buns, Scallop & Chive Dumplings ) were lumpen and dense. The grilled Cheung Fun with dried shrimp was all cheung and no fun. Quite nasty in fact.

A series of fried dim sum ( Taro paste, Yam Croquettes, Paper Wrapped Prawns ) were greasy and heavy.

Baked treasury pork puffs, normally light and spicy, were doughy and cold.

Even the roast meats ,usually excellent, were very poor indeed. The duck was oily and cloying and the belly pork dry as a bone if ,at least, having a decent crackling skin.

The only two dishes worthy of note were both on the specials list. A fried squid paste and a plate of Duck's kidney's. The latter were not cheap ( at £5.50 a plate ) but at least offered a different taste to the one note cooking of the rest

We struggled through a lot of it because we were starving, but left a great deal. Unheard of for us.

And, with the portions of meat, it was not cheap. £55 for two. What you would pay for two at Royal China

The problem with eating dim sum at this most basic level in London is that there is no level of consistency. For every two decent meals you have in one place you will have one bad.

I staggered out of there feeling stuffed but not in a good way. I actually felt a little queasy as the oily lumpen mass began to slosh around my insides. Quite disconcerting.

In the end, it is probably worth paying the extra and going to the places at the mid and high end where, although, you are paying more per head, the cooking is consistent and the offerings a little more innovative

As for Harbour City. I don't think I will be rushing back anytime soon

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