London, England / July 11, 2009 / lunch
Winederlust Rating (details below): 7.5 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: Maybe
We weren’t sure what to expect when Jay reserved this (one-star Michelin) London restaurant as the first meal after our trans-Atlantic flight from New York. We talked about getting traditional British tea, but the menu here – creative takes on the old-fashioned tea service with dim sum with or without sandwiches, green tea scones, and Asian-influenced French desserts – sounded intriguing, and the atmosphere looked like it would be hipper than a stodgy old tearoom.
So when we first walked in, we were a little disappointed. The fairly minimalistic room, maybe hip in the ‘90s, now looked a bit worn and there weren’t a lot of customers. A wall of blue glass at the back of the restaurant partially hid the dim sum kitchen, and one wall was lined with old-fashioned jars of tea and Chinese teapots and cups. Plus the noveau spin on traditional tea was nowhere to be found on the menu.
However, the menu did include a couple pages of interesting teas from China and Taiwan, followed by pages of dim sum, some steamed and some fried, some traditional like pork buns and shrimp dumplings, but several more innovative, like the duck and shiitake mushroom dumplings we ended up ordering – shredded duck mixed with the mushrooms and wrapped in tofu skin, packaged like small bundles of sushi.
In fact, many of the dishes we ordered came packaged in a sushi roll-like guise with Chinese flavors, such as the crab and snow pea dumplings, lotus cube and shrimp dumplings, and the scallops with kumquats, a large mass of balled shrimp with a rather overpowering kumquat flavor and a scallop balanced on top, maybe the weakest of the dishes that we tried.
The blue swimming crab soup with caviar and enoki mushrooms had a subtle broth that showcased the sweetness of the crab, and the steamed lotus leaf with rice, chicken, and shrimp was nicely balanced with light, fresh flavors.
As we ate, the restaurant became more crowded with shoppers and people catching up with friends for Saturday lunch, a lively mixture of well-heeled Londoners and tourists that upped the noise level somewhat but brought a nice energy to the place. And then came the desserts, which were really the stars of the meal, beautifully presented with an interesting mix of flavors. We sampled the Violetta, chocolate choux pastry with chocolate cream and blackberry and violet compote oozing from the middle, and the Shanghai Lilly, a rose almond biscuit topped with gewurztraminer mousse, lychee fruit, rose confit, and white chocolate, a surprisingly light and airy mixture in which all of the flavors were nicely articulated.
The grand total for our meal: 75 pounds, quite a bit more pricey than just getting dim sum in Chinatown, but definitely a pleasant way to ease into our gastronomic adventures in Europe. – by Liz Humphreys, Winederlust Eater in Chief
Winederlustful Rating Details (out of 10):
Food: 7.5 (preparation, presentation & taste)
Wine: N/A (selection, recommendations, pairings & taste)
Service: 8.0 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 6.5 (location, view, decor & vibe)
Price Range: $$$ (Expensive)
Yauatcha / 15 Broadwick Street, London, WIF 0DL [ map ]
Direct line +44 (0)20 74948888