Monday, 16 June 2008
It's certainly been a month or two of ups and downs around these here parts. I had barely got over the shock that the once-great Fox and Hounds gastropub on Latchmere Road seemed to be no long able to cook duck properly when my other favourite restaurant the Food Room was taken over by a semi-celebrity chef who constructs dishes out of a revolutionary new ingredient called "bland". It was all very upsetting, and coupled with my new self-imposed budget I could see no easy way of the restaurants of London redeeming themselves any time soon. And then, out of nowhere, a delightful meal at an unpromising location in Parson's Green got the whole thing back on track, and this weekend the successful streak continued with a pleasing and pleasingly inexpensive meal at Yauatcha, Soho.
The word for the interior is "glamorous" - Yauatcha is a stunning room, all blue glass and tasteful lighting with a huge aquarium along one wall. And, hilariously, glamorous is the word they used themselves when we called to make the booking and enquired about a dress code. "Casual glamorous" they specifically replied - presumably this doesn't apply in quite the same way to the male diners, although this is Soho after all so who knows. Perhaps they just felt they couldn't get away with saying "no riff raff". I managed to sneak in under the radar anyway.
The menu was huge and baffling, but fortunately we had with us someone of Chinese heritage (who had also scoured the internet for tips beforehand) to guide us through and I was happy to leave most of the ordering up to them. I won't describe every dish in detail as there were about 100 of them, but highlights included crispy venison pastry puffs which I think had chocolate in there somewhere, impossibly light and silky prawn dumplings, astonishing scallops topped with bitter kumquat and some superb Cheung Fun (sort of a long floppy ravioli - that's them at the back of this shot):
Once the dim sum were over with we were presented with a rather more prosaic Chinese dish of beef noodles, although even this had its merits. Also I should say that the jasmin tea-smoked spare ribs were a bit tough although the flavour was good. But the best surprise of all was that the whole kit and caboodle (including a cocktail and a few beers) came to little over £25 each including tip. Considering the effort that must have gone into each individual dish, this is very reasonable - and particularly in comparison to Hakkasan where I spent twice that on food which wasn't any better.
Desserts - and apologies for the lack of photos but I was probably too busy eating - were very pretty and the best by common consensus was one involving passion fruit. Another tasted like Southport public baths and was somewhat less successful but at least they looked the part. All the desserts, along with a mouthwatering selection of macaroons, are displayed in the front window and the takeaway service appeared to be doing a roaring trade throughout the evening.
So add in smiley and attentive service (itself somewhat of a minor miracle in a Chinese restaurant in the UK) and you have yourself a great evening out. Yauatcha, along with Barrafina and Busaba Eatthai, has just been added to my list of places to eat in Soho, and is probably the best Chinese restaurant in London at the moment so you can do at lot worse than mosey on along and check it out for yourself.