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Searching for London's Best Dim Sum

har gow

London has a sizable Chinese community, so there are hundreds of restaurants serving dim sum, a traditional Cantonese “brunch” where small plates of dumplings and other dishes are shared, typically eaten with Chinese tea. We love dim sum but with so many options in London, it’s hard to figure out which are worth visiting and which aren’t. We started this search after returning from a visit to Hong Kong (where Jane’s family is from) so we still had experiences from the home of dim sum fresh in our minds.

cheung fun

We put in place some guidelines for the search to ensure that we’re comparing apples with apples. Firstly, we’d always order the 3 classic dim sum dishes - har gow (prawn dumplings), siu mai (pork and prawn dumplings) and xiao long bao (pork dumplings filled with broth). Sometimes we’d order other dishes like char siu bao (steamed BBQ pork bun) or cheung fun (steamed rice rolls) depending on how hungry we were but our logic is that if you get the 3 classic dishes right, then it’s a pretty good indication of your dim sum skills.

siu mai

We gave points for each dish. So what were we looking for? Well, the har gow should be made with large, fresh prawns with thin, translucent wrappers that are still a little al dente. The siu mai should be a good balance of pork and prawn with some but not too much fatty pork and no gristle. Finally, the xiao long bao should have thin, delicate skin, meaty pork filling, and plenty of flavourful pork broth (Din Tai Fung is our benchmark for a perfect XLB). And it should all be well-seasoned and not loaded with MSG.

xiao long bao

We also gave points for service and the environment because a good dining experience is not just about the food. Unsurprisingly, we noticed that when we were hungry the food would always seem to take longer to arrive. So we timed how long it would take for tea and food to arrive at the table from when we ordered. This wasn’t used in the scoring but it gave us a quantitative to metric to help balance out our biases. Finally, we added up the price for the 3 dishes and tea for 1 person to give you a rough idea of how much each place costs.

Now onto the results...

Bayswater - Kam Tong - Pearl Liang - Royal China Queensway - Toa Kitchen

Chinatown - Dumpling Legend - Imperial China - Plum Valley

Soho - Duck & Rice - Hakkasan Hanway Place - Yauatcha

Marylebone - Phoenix Palace - Royal China Club

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