PRINCESS GARDEN: DIM SUM DOWTOWN
London has a Hell of a lot of restaurants, 10,000 + of them, I think, So, even with DH’s capacity for eating out, it would still be a pretty mean feat to exhaust all the possibilities.
However, in two areas of dining, we are beginning to run out of options. Fish & Chips is one, of course, as DH have eaten at most of London’s chippies worthy of note and many unworthy ones too. Also, places for a decent dumpling as our love of Sunday Dim Sum, particularly after an over indulgent Saturday night, has left us scratching our heads as we search for new places to go.
Princess Garden in Mayfair was the suggestion of one of HP’s colleagues who is originally from Hong Kong and we pitched up at Midday as per usual to find the place empty and the staff milling around with a bored look in their eyes. All this made the manager’s question as to whether we had a reservation seem a bit strange, that is until two minutes after we were shown to our table and a steady flow of seeming regulars trickled in until the whole place was heaving.
Dumpling prices came in at around £2.80 a time and our order for twelve assorted fried, steamed and baked barely raised the waiter’s eyebrow with only the additional order of half a roast duck making him give us a quizzical look. We like duck with our dim sum, so shoot us.
It was not a good start. Cold pork puffs and a “wild pork delight” did little to make us think this would be a worthwhile way to spend a Sunday lunchtime, but things soon began to pick up as the excellent steamed dumplings began to arrive. With enough of a misshape to confirm that they had not come out of a catering pack, each dumpling was piping hot with just the right amount of bite to the dough and filled with fresh, well flavoured ingredients where you could taste the main event. Har Gau and Sui Mai were both spot on, but it was simple scallop and asparagus dumplings and pea shoot dumpling which had us cutting the third portion with surgeon like precision so no one could be accused of eating more than the other.
Frying showed an excellent hand too, with both cuttlefish balls and taro croquettes opening to reveal a hot filling in a greaseless casing. The roast duck was as good as we have had in some time, excellent crispy skin covering a layer of fatty meat and then moist flesh. Not cheap at £15 for a half duck, but worth the prices and effort to reduce the bones to sawdust. Minus points however for the sauce of duck stock, which had been laced with MSG and had both of our hearts banging out African rhythms on the inside of our chests for the next few hours
However, it was the final dish that realy made us both take notice. Cheung Fun can often be nothing but cold sludgy dough with little of interest in side to make eating the slimy casing worthwhile. Here, the sauce served on the side, the dough was light and the filling, well-flavoured cuttlefish wrapped in a crisp egg pancake to give texture. So often this is the one dish to be left on the table, here it was cleared to the last piece.
Location and quality means that this is not a Chinatown cheap option and our bill including tea and service came to £63, but while it lacks the inventiveness of some of the newer arrivals in town, Princess Garden makes a useful alternative to Royal China and another interesting addition to the DH list when only Dim Sum will do.
Any other suggestions more than welcome