Rainy, cold, miserable London.
You almost forget how bad it can get when summer is all sunshine and happy faces.
I felt terrible for our visiting friend who brought his family to europe for this first time only to have it rain for the 3 days they were in London. When his family requested a Chinese meal I got a little scared as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tarnish their London experience entirely – after all ol’London-town isn’t quite the Chinese culinary capital.
Conceived by oriental-restaurant guru Alan Yau and as like all of Yau’s restaurants, the restaurant is architecturally pretty beautiful. Though he no longer has no interests in Yauatcha (nor Hakkasan) there is very much a similarity between the restaurant set up and menus.
One thing I must say, and this is directed at all those Hakkasan haters out there – the prices for dim sum at Yauatcha are about 10-20% more than at Hakkasan. I noticed this in particular with the scallop shu mai (£7.50) for example which was not only more expensive, but the scallops were in no way as juicy or plump and had substantially less fish roe on top. The Hakkasan rendition really is miles ahead.
Dishes such as the venison pastry puffs (£4.80) tasted identical to Hakkasan and were beautifully buttery morsels filled with tender flavoursome venison. Mushroom dumplings (£4.80) were delicately wrapped and contained a rather delicious mixture of mushrooms and peanuts.
A rice noodle cheung fun (picture just right of the above vegetable dumpling) was filled with tasty enoki and cloud ear mushrooms wrapped in a crispy beancurd, and then all wrapped in the rice noodle (£6.50). Textually the bean curd gave it a fantastic crunch which really elevated the dish.
Steamed Shanghai soup dumplings (£6.50) were a bit of a disappointment, especially as Hakkasan’s version are generally the highlight of any meal. Again the dumplings were probably about 2/3 of the size of the identical dish at Hakka.
Things definitely looked up when main courses arrived.
Lamb chops cooked Mongolian style (£22) didn’t sound so appealing on the menu, but ended up being a fantastic dish of frenched lamb chops grilled with onions and topped with a barbecue type rich sauce. A little pricey for 4 chops perhaps?
Jasmine tea smoked ribs (£10.80) were soft and tender and the meat fell off the bone at the slightest touch.
Salt and pepper crispy squid (£9.80) was really quite outstanding. Very different from the delicious crispy light parcels at Hakkasan, the squid at Yauatcha was lightly battered fried and topped with masses of crisp almond slivers. They really should just serve the crisp, fried almond as a dish on its own.
Steamed mui choi turbot (£26) was clean and had a real Cantonese flavour. Mui choi is salt preserved mustard cabbage and is often rather bitter. The use of mui choi here was sparse enough to not overpower the turbot but at the same time there was enough there to give it a decent salty, sour kick.
With a table return time of 2 hours, we did feel a little rushed through our meal. Luckily we had a few spare minutes to gobble down a few of Yauatcha’s house made macarons. At £1.50 a pop (or £7 for a plate of 6), whilst they are no Pierre Herme, they definitely hit all the right spots. If anything they put a big smile on our guests faces giving them a small taste of what was waiting for them across the channel (they were eurostaring over to Paris the following morning).
I was a little surprised to find out that Yauatcha had a Michelin star. Whilst the food is of decent quality, wait staff and levels of service is just not there. Our waiter was a little abrupt and I really noticed the inefficiency of the commis waiters. Even simple things like topping up water glasses or clearing plates felt really intrusive.
If you read my blog often, you’ll probably know that I am a huge Hakkasan fan. I often go for lunch rather than dinner as it’s relatively more affordable . After eating at Yauatcha I am compelled to return to Hakkasan even more often. The food is noticeably of better quality. The wait staff are actually fairly professional. It costs less.
Whilst Yauatcha dishes out killer crispy almond chips, I’m not sure thats quite enough to make me return. An afternoon tea of macarons on the other hand could …
You might also be interested in reading my post my recent lunch at Hakkasan, Fitzrovia.