Dim sum in a fancy restaurant with a toddler? Believe it or not; it can happen, as Annie Ridout discovered on an impromptu trip to Soho’s finest – Yauatcha…
Yauatcha, Soho, with a toddler
If you’re a Londoner, you’ve probably noticed the building – blue glass, corner of Berwick and Broadwick Street, fancy pâtisseries lined up in neat rows – but you might not know that it’s the best dim sum restaurant in town: Yauatcha.
It was awarded a Michelin star within a year of opening in 2004 and I’ve been a loyal customer for the past eleven years; celebrating birthdays, Christmas and the like here, but we decided to take one-year-old Joni with us.
It was a spur-of-the-moment, Pizza Express is getting a bit boring, decision. And we assumed they’d be full. We also wondered what they’d think of us bringing our big, colourful Bugaboo into their minimalist, chic teahouse. But they greeted us with smiles and were delighted to accommodate a sleeping toddler in a pram.
Unfortunately, the couple next to us were less delighted to see our child; as soon as she stirred they asked to be moved downstairs. Oh well.
The seating and tables are low, as is the lighting and the general volume of chitchat. My husband, at 6’ 2’’, said he felt like a giant until he sat down. But once seated, he happily immersed himself in the extensive menu and left me to muse on the careful interior design.
Tables are spaced out so that you have enough privacy but still experience the bustle of being surrounded by other diners – it was designed like this to emulate the vibrant ‘chatter shop’ atmosphere of a traditional dim sum eatery in Hong Kong.
The furniture is simplistic and yet comfortable throughout the restaurant. Down in the basement the lighting is even lower – making it more suitable for an evening meal – and the spot lighting is reminiscent of a starry night sky; a romantic touch.
But now the food, because this is what keeps me coming back. The dim sum is split into categories: steamed, cheung fun (long, slippery rice noodle rolls, filled with juicy prawns or succulent meat and crunchy veg), baked, grilled and pan fried.
There are soups, salads, rice and noodles. Larger meat dishes are more expensive, from £11-20, seafood peaks at £36 (for Szechuan style native blue lobster) and the small sharing plates are reasonably priced – mostly £4-12 – so that’s what we tend to go for.
We ordered the Chinese chive and prawn dumpling: three little steamed green parcels packed with fresh ingredients, served piping hot. This arrived with three char siu buns – a sweet puffy dough ball filled with barbecued pork – and the prawn cheung fun, cut in two for us and drenched in sweet soy sauce.
For a contrasting texture, as dim sum can get a bit soft and gloopy, we opted for the duck puffs – a golden brown deep-fried ball; the thin crispy shell encasing a small mound of shredded duck. And lastly, we shared sticky rice with pork and shrimp, neatly wrapped in lotus leaf parcels.
It was an impromptu, beginning of the week lunch so we drank sparkling water (they offer still or sparkling with such conviction you feel embarrassed to say: actually, a jug of tap water, please). But would usually start with one of their amazing long cocktails, served with fresh passion fruit, or basil leaves. Or, for a sober, more tradition affair: a pot of jasmine tea.
The desserts are worth saving space for. Macarons come in a whole load of outrageously yummy flavours, including: lavender honey, coconut and lychee, vanilla orchid, banana and cinnamon. And then there’s an array of fruity, creamy and chocolatey pâtisseries, served with cream or ice cream – they choose, not you – and dainty pieces of nut and crumble.
We shared a dense milk chocolate pudding, with a packed toasted rice centre, served with ice cream and crunchy hazelnut.
While we contemplated licking the smeared milk chocolate from the plate, our waitress removed Joni from my arms and took her to see the fish. If a little abrupt, we appreciated the sentiment so forgave her for the hysterical tears that followed. The waitress was unperturbed, handed her back and pulled faces until Joni was smiling again.
We spent £45 on five sharing dishes, a dessert and non-alcoholic drinks.
Yauatcha, 15 Broadwick Street, Soho, London W1F 0DL; 020 7494 8888
Monday-Saturday 12.00-11.30pm; Sunday 12.00-10.30pm
Dim Sum £4-£18
Have you been to Yauatcha? What did you think? But more importantly: what did you ORDER? Let us know in the comment section below…