Tel: +44 (0)20 7221 2535
Address: 13 Queensway, London W2 4QJ
Cuisine Type: Chinese
Queensway (CENTRAL), Bayswater (DISTRICT / CIRCLE)
One of my fondest recollections about living in Hong Kong was weekend brunch, sitting amidst the bustle and noise of restaurants as plate after plate of steaming dim sum was placed in front of us. Back then, many Chinese restaurants did not have a booking policy, or indeed any formal system for allocating tables. Customers had to stand by tables with the right number of seats, waiting for the seated diners to finish, thus adding to the chaos created by women pushing round trolleys of food, overstretched waiters clearing and resetting tables, and children running around their feet. In fact, imagine yourself eating in the middle of a market and you wouldn’t be far off.
I’m sure this approach to seating customers was designed to maximise turnover – after all, you wouldn’t be comfortable chatting leisurely over tea if a group of hungry people is hovering around, watching your every move like a pack of vultures – but then service and ambience are not high on the list of priorities.
This appears also to be the case at the Royal China in Bayswater. Indisputably serving some of the best dim sum in London, the queue forming outside its doors just before it opens is a source of amusement for passers by and consternation for those joining the end. Since no reservations are taken for lunch, those not fortunate enough to secure a table are told they could face up to a 45 minute wait. The quality of the food means that most would rather put their name down on the lengthy waiting list than go to the other restaurants in the area serving dim sum. Arriving at 12.30pm, my companions and I had kitted ourselves out in new outfits from Whiteleys by the time our table was ready (1.15pm).
The food is worth the wait. Diaphanous scallop dumplings, silky cheung fun, char sui buns as fluffy as cotton wool, crispy sesame coated prawns were among the treats we ordered (£2.30 – £2.70 per dish). For more substantial lunches, plates of fried noodles and rice are available (£7.00 – £8.00). Everything we tried was delicious, and at less than £10 per person, an absolute bargain. We drank Chinese tea, but a range of soft drinks, beer and wine are also available.
The only damper on the meal was the fact that as soon as the last plate had been cleared away, the bill, which had not been requested yet, was placed in front of us, suggesting that we should vacate our table for the next in the still substantial queue. Oh well, nothing like it to bring back memories of Hong Kong.