Most Sundays we’ll find ourselves having a spot of dim sum at our local Royal China in Bayswater. Last weekend we decided to venture further afield, and hit up Yum Cha on Chalk Farm Road in Camden, conveniently situated near the Blumenthal-esque liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour I had been itching to try. The sight of tourists lounging outside the restaurant with their frothy pints nearly made me reconsider, but we really fancied dim sum, so entered and were relieved to discover a few tables of Chinese patrons inside (a universal indicator of authenticity).
It was blisteringly hot out, so we ordered a couple of cold dishes, the first being the Szechuan Spicy Duck Tongue. B found the sauce, which had more salt than chilli heat, one dimensional and the tongues themselves were still springy and not quite tender. In my opinion they were a far cry from the ones we so enjoy at Royal China.
The prawn cheung fun was a better effort – the prawns were fresh and sweet, and we particularly liked the soy which was subtle and not overly sweet. The rice noodles however were a little mushy, and on the thick side.
A trio of bouncy squid cakes were well-seasoned with pleasing chunks of water chestnuts embedded within. Unfortunately they were a tad greasy, and the smidgen of dipping sauce provided lacked punch.
I had no complaints at all with the Grilled Chinese Chive Dumplings. The pastry was paper thin, the prawn and chive filling delicious, and the dumpling bottoms were pan fried to crispy perfection. And there were even four not three, so B and I didn’t have to fight over the last one!
The turnip cakes had an equally lovely golden crusty outer layer, but the lack of shredded turnip in the mixture really let it down. Still, they were pretty tasty.
The second cold dish we chose was the Five Spice Beef Tongue and Shoulder. I was curious to try the tongue, and was disappointed to find it missing from the dish. That aside, the beef slices although dry, were full of flavour and the fiery chilli oil drizzled over lent a nice kick.
Although Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce is one of my favourite dim sum dishes, it is often badly executed, with bland or excessively fatty spare ribs a regular complaint (we never order it at Royal China for that exact reason). We took a gamble with Yum Cha’s version, and it paid off – tasty, tender pork ribs with just enough fat and none of those tiny shards of bone you get from poor cleaver work when chopping up the ribs.
The arrival of the Crystal Scallop and Prawn Dumplings was confusing as I didn’t recall ordering them, but it turned out I had mistakenly ticked them instead of the Har Gao on the paper menu. They were fine but nothing to shout about, and the crystal skins weren’t quite fine enough.
The biggest surprise of the meal was just how good their Xiao Long Bao was. The pork filling and soup were both exceptionally tasty and the delicate skins were almost translucent yet managed to keep the precious broth from escaping until it reached my mouth. One of the best examples of xiao long bao I’ve tasted in London, on par with those at Min Jiang – I could just pop them all day!
I’m not sure if Yum Cha on the whole was good enough for us to make another trip down given the proximity of Royal China, but if you are in the area it would make a more than decent option for dim sum.
28 Chalk Farm Road
London NW1 8AG
t. 020 7482 2228