PULLING TEETH IN DOCKLANDS
Yi Ban has two branches.
One in Chelsea and one in Docklands. Both far enough from civilisation for them never to enter my radar when Dim Sum calls.
However, when two chums, John & David, who I had not seen in over a year begged for my company over lunch, I thought it was only fair to head out to Royal Albert on the DLR and give it a go.
Oh dear. An experience so wretched that it makes me profoundly wary about ever leaving fashionable SOSHO again.
I was looking forward to it too. There are few things I enjoy more on a Sunday than good Dim Sum. Actually, that’s not true. There are lots of things I prefer but they are not things I wish to share here or anywhere where I am not under subpoena.
Plus John & David are top people whose opinions on food I consider worthy of note (and I don’t say that very often) and they recounted any number of good meals here. On top of which the positive view was reinforced by an encounter with two more friends with good taste at Spitalfield in the morning who declared it “excellent”
So far so good. So what went wrong?
First, the wait. Now, I know that when you go for Dim Sum, unless you are there, as DH normally are, as soon as the restaurant opens, you have to wait a while. But, well over an hour probably takes one to the edges of endurance for any self respecting Londoner. The trouble is, you are literally in the middle of nowhere and, unless the bistro at the Excel Ramada takes your fancy, there is little option but to sit a spell and wait. So we did.
We put our name down on the list and sat in the corridor with David clutching the small raffle ticket they offered like a man waiting for a flat pack bookcase at Argos. We waited and we waited and we waited. Finally, just as we were about to give up the shout of “435” went up, we gave a weary little cheer and wandered in to a restaurant filled to the brim with noisy punters and staff looking increasingly harassed.
Actually getting to sit down was the high point. Things went downhill from there. We handed over our little sheet on which we had dutifully marked out the dumplings we wanted and the waitress started attacking it with red pen as if she was my old maths teacher marking logarithms homework. “This gone. This gone too. No more this” I am surprised she did not write “see me” on the bottom.
Then we waited and we waited and we waited. One dish arrived, some slightly stale pork puff pies. Then we waited and we waited and we waited. Another dish arrived, some half decent ribs.
Then we, well you get the picture. By this time, John & David were feeling a bit embarrassed. They had no reason too. None of this was their doing. But, I know how they felt. You take a friend to a place you like and it lets you down at every level. It can be soul destroying.
Almost as soul destroying as the wait for the next morsel of food. Finally, a handful of steamed dumplings arrived. They were fine. No better than an average mid range Dim Sum experience, but by now we were so hungry we greeted them as if the chef had come to the table to prepare the food himself while stuffing £20 notes into our top pockets with the words “ buy your self something pretty”
There were still five things on the order to come, but another twenty minutes later, the wait just got too much for us and, when I popped off to the bathroom, John & David got the bill and treated me to lunch which they had no more need to do than to feel embarrassed about the whole debacle.
All in all, nearly two and a half hours to eat about half a dozen dumplings. Roughly twenty minutes a bite.
I can fully believe this place is capable of better. But, experiences like this make me pretty determined never to find out.
Yi Ban apparently means “ First Class” I wonder what “ Second Rate” is in Cantonese?