I have fond memories of my first meal at Yauatcha. It was back in 2004; I had just moved to London and B, on a mission to acquaint me with the local food scene, had brought me there for a Friday night date. I remember thinking how odd it was to be eating dim sum for dinner (it felt almost sacrilegious) but ended up enjoying my evening – the atmosphere was buzzy, cocktails delicious and the food, genuinely good. Over the years Royal China has cemented itself as our go-to yum cha venue, but Yauatcha retained a special place in my heart and we would return sporadically.
In recent years many have expressed dismay at a drop in standards but impressions from our last visit (over a year ago) were good, so undeterred we decided to head on down for our weekly dim sum fix. Even the icy receptionist that greeted us didn’t dampen our spirits – after all the waitstaff here have historically been a lofty humourless bunch.
Foodwise things started well, with some excellent steamed Scallop Siew Mai, one of Yauatcha (and Hakkasan)’s signature dim sum offerings. These arrived in tandem with the Crabmeat Xiao Long Bao which looked the part and had lovely delicate skins but were shabbily made, breaking easily when met with our chopsticks. No great loss though, as the broth within was both oily and surprisingly bland.
Fried Beancurd Rolls, traditionally toothsome vegetables wrapped in crisp paper-thin beancurd skin had been inexplicably dunked in a thick batter prior to frying resulting in an unpalatable oil-logged crust.
The beef in the Wagyu Cheung Fun was tender but not meltingly so, and if I had not known it to be wagyu, I certainly would not have guessed it. Still, the union of slithery rice noodles, soft beef slices, crunchy asparagus and black fungus was a tasty one. But then at £18 a serving, it really should be.
We had ordered a couple of dishes as well, and there was a considerable wait for these after our dim sum baskets had been cleared. The Salt and Pepper Quail that arrived buried under a sea of chilli, garlic and batter crumbs, was dry and woefully over-cooked. A real disappointment as it is usually one of B’s favourites.
Our second rice-pairing dish of Beancurd Claypot featured pillowy tofu pieces generously stuffed with pork in a rich mushroom and black bean sauce. It was over-seasoned, but otherwise not bad.
There really is no escaping the fact that the cooking at Yauatcha is no longer at the level it once was, and it is a mystery to me how they have managed to hold on to a Michelin star, especially with service being as poor as it is.
I shall be sticking to Royal China in the future.
15-17 Broadwick Street
London, W1F 0DL
t. 020 7494 8888