London – Din Tai Fung

20181216_124439Din Tai Fung is a famous Taiwanese restaurant.  According to information I gleaned about it, Din Tai Fung has about 250 restaurants around Asia.  However, it only opened its very first restaurant in Europe, in December 2018 in London, Convent Garden.   There was a lot of media fan-fare running up to the opening; that’s how I got to hear about it, and what got my attention was that this restaurant is famous for their dumplings called Xiao Long Bao.  I can’t understand how this could be possible because this was a dish I dislike the most out of all the dishes you can order when you go to have dim sum.   But this dish is apparently what made the restaurant so famous that a queue of up to 4-5 hours occurred when the restaurant opened in some parts of Asia.  A similar wait is expected for the very first opening in London’s Convent Garden and they don’t take bookings.  You just have to turn up and wait for your seat.

A few weeks after its opening I decided to go and see.  When I arrived there was indeed a long queue snaking around with a 2+ hours wait.   This was a cold January, winter day, and I was not prepared to wait in the cold so long for lunch so gave it a miss and went over to China town to have my usual dim sum instead.

A few months later, during the Easter holiday on 21 April 2019 I went again.  Things were much better this time.  I couldn’t see a queue but as it turned out, they have set up a digital queuing system where you give the attendance your name and phone number.  They then text you when your table is ready so you don’t have to wait in line.  And this time our table was ready in around 10 minutes.  We finally made it in to try out the famous Xiao Long Bao.

Ordering was easy.  You fill out your order form as below:

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Below are the four dishes and two drinks we ordered:

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20190506_225803 This is the famous Xiao Long Bao.   This restaurant does many different types of fillings for their bao but we decided to stick to the standard traditional pork bao and I can report it is as good as they made it out to be.  The skin are thin and silky.  The fillings are fresh, wholesome with tasty soups inside each bao.  This was the one dish I usually avoid when I go to dim sum but here I can easily eat a few basket of it even though there are eight of them per basket.  The only thing stopping me was the price.  As you can see it is expensive at £10.50 for eight tiny little baozi.

In fact, all the dishes we tried were delicious.  However,  the portions are tiny in all of them.  See the bill below for our four dishes and two drinks.

20190421_181659I guess the price is to be expected for its prime location in central London.  And it is a big restaurant sitting up to 250 people.

Watch my video of the day below where you will get to see the restaurant and the kitchen staff in their white overall with face masks looking like some clinical researchers and the walk around Convent Garden and central London afterward.

Below are some pictures of random pages from the menu to give you an idea of other dishes and prices.

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London – Cafe Rouge

After the fiasco with the last Groupon voucher (see here) I wasn’t going to go back and use Groupon vouchers again, at least for a very long time.  However, the refund I got from the fiasco was in the form of a Groupon credit so I had to make use of the credit.

It just so happen that I was having another meetup with a friend and whenever we meet we have always went for a meal using Groupon so not wanting to disrupt our plan and I’ve always wanted to go and try a meal at Cafe Rouge.

Cafe Rouge is a chain of restaurants serving French food.  It’s a well established chain of restaurants so I don’t think its Canary Wharf branch would easily disappear causing the hassles we had the last time we wanted to use our Groupon voucher.  And this time, I booked our table and brought the voucher just one day before our meal, instead of doing it more than a month beforehand (as last time) giving time for the restaurant to disappear before we had the chance to use the voucher.

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Boeuf Bourguignon

I think I made the right decision as this restaurant didn’t disappoint. It was a lovely, spacious restaurant. We were there on a Sunday afternoon, it was a quiet time. Service was warm and friendly. We were allowed to sit there and chat for ages. To top it all off, the meal was excellent.  I had the Boeuf Bourguigon.  It is one of the best beef dishes I’ve ever had.  From the creamy, buttery, smash potato down to the rich red wine sauce, everything in that dish was just perfect and worked so well together.  The beef was tender, the bacon crispy, even the slice of onion was tasty and I usually leave the onion bits out.  Here, I could easily eat the whole onion.  The red wine sauce could not be faulted.  It was rich and had a definitive red wine taste and fragrance.   I have had this dish in a different restaurant before and the sauce was always a sort of watery reddish liquid.   This dish here is the real thing.  I shall make a point of coming back here again.

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Bouillabaisse

My friend had the Bouillabaisse.  It is a fish stew and contains mussels, hake, salmon and prawn.  She confirmed it was equally delicious. Needless to say both of us licked the plates clean.

Our Groupon voucher was for a two course meal.  Either a starter and main or main with dessert.  We both opted for main and dessert.

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Apple & blackberry crumble

I went for the apple & blackberry crumble but they probably ran out of blackberry as what I had was apple & rhubard.  But no worries.  It was just as good particularly the creamy vanilla flavoured sauce.  Not a drop of it was left by the time I finished with it.  And you probably can’t tell from the pictures but the dessert was very small portion.  I could easily ate a few of them in one go.

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Creme Brulee

My friend had Creme Brulee.  Delicious!  But again the portion was tiny.

Our voucher said we can have mains up to the value of £15.45 and desserts up to £5.95 from the Taste of Rouge menu.

There was no price on the menu and both our main dishes were ones that we had to pay an extra £3 each.

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Taste of Rouge menu

 

Cost of Groupon voucher for this meal: £19
Extra £3 each for our main: £6
Total cost of meal incl. service charge: £27.50
Price per person: £13.75

Original cost of meal would have been £43.80 ex-service charge so I think we had a very good deal. Finally, another well deserved Groupon voucher.

Below is the video of our walk around Canary Wharf before and after the meal.  It was a nice walk around this new financial centre of London and the shopping malls attached to it.  Enjoy!

 

 

London – Young Cheng – Cantonese restaurant

This Cantonese restaurant in London’s China Town is the place to go to if you want a really typically, home cook Cantonese type of food.   There is nothing fancy about this restaurant, just straight forward, cheap, tasty,  good sized portion food that is fulfilling and at a good price.

We went there after the disappointment of the Groupon voucher fiasco at Mitsuryu, the Japanese restaurant (read all about this failure here) and was very happy with this alternative restaurant that we always go to when nothing else will do.

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This is their lunchtime menu.  Very basic Cantonese food made up of either noodles or rice with a stir fry for main course. And there are lots of options and combinations to choose from. The steamed rice here is my absolute favourite because you always get a big, freshly steamed bowl of fragrance rice. The rice is so fresh and tasty, moist with a lovely natural fragrance that I can easily eat just the rice alone without any condiments.  Anyone who thinks rice is just plain, boring with no taste should try the rice here.   Rice by itself has no taste, that’s true, but this rice is Thai Jasmine fragrance rice and when it is newly harvested and hasn’t lost its natural fragrance, it is soft, moist with a lovely scent.  You literally taste the fragrance in the rice (similar to freshly harvested green tea).  Unfortunately, these rice lost its fragrance and scent very quickly so by the time it is harvested, packed, stored, and shipped over here from Thailand or Asia it has lost much of its natural flavour.  However, that day I must be lucky because the rice I had for the dish below was the best I’ve ever had.  It feels as if the rice had just been picked and steamed as soon as it was harvested from the rice paddy.  Needless to say, not a grain of it was wasted.

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Roast belly pork and beancurd with rice £6.80.

This was the perfect, quick, simple meal yet so tasty and filling.  It was a really big portion too and lunch time price at £6.80 was very good value for money at a restaurant in central London.  I don’t think you’ll get anything as good for the price.

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Noodles with prawn & pork dumplings with soup £7.

The dumplings were really nice but  I’d have preferred the noodles to be dry instead of soaking in the sauce.  You also get a separate bowl of clear soup as well.  Again, really big portion and we were well stuffed when we finished our meal.

small_3 Restaurant also serve dim sum. This is a page from their dim sum menu.

There are two of these restaurants in Chinatown with the same name not far from each other but one is a buffet restaurant (under the same ownership I assume).   If you want to have dim sum or the tradition meal that we had you have to tell staff this and they’ll provide you with the appropriate dim sum or standard meal menu otherwise, you have the buffet meal.  The other restaurant (the one we went to at Lisle street) doesn’t do buffet.  Also, if you go there at lunch time make sure to ask for the lunch menu as it is cheaper but the food is exactly the same.

After this fulfilling meal we went for a long walk across London.  Here’s the link to this walk.  Enjoy!

London -Groupon disappointment

So I came across what looked like a great Groupon meal deal.  A meal at a Japanese restaurant called Mitsuryu in London’s China Town.  It was a newly opened restaurant in a newly refurbished section of China Town.   I duly brought the voucher and went online to book our meal for the weekend only to find the deal was not available at weekends, you can only use the voucher on certain weekdays, and even then only at lunch time.  This is the problem with these deals, sometimes these restrictions are not stated at the beginning.  You get the voucher only to find this out when you want to use it.  Oh well, there was nothing to be done but look into finding a suitable date for it in the near future.  Continue reading “London -Groupon disappointment”

London – a walk @Putney & Fulham

The above is a video of a circular walk in early January 2019 around Putney and Fulham, a well to do area located in the south west of London on zone 2 of the District Line.   The walk started at our meeting point of Putney Bridge tube station.  We then walked along Continue reading “London – a walk @Putney & Fulham”

Argan – 10 course tasting menu

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Argan is a North African, Moroccan-Lebanese restaurant conveniently located a few minutes walk from Clapham common tube station.  I’ve never had this kind of food before and this Groupon meal deal caught my attention as it is a 10 course tasting menu giving me the chance to try out lots of different dishes at a reasonable price. Continue reading “Argan – 10 course tasting menu”

London – The Victoria & Albert museum

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Three of London’t biggest and most popular museums are based in Knightsbridge.  They are the Natural History museum (see here), behind the Natural History museum, no more than 5 minutes walk away, is the Science museum, and across the road, towards the left side of the Natural History museum is the V&A, again, about a 5 minutes walk. Continue reading “London – The Victoria & Albert museum”

London – Yum Cha @China Town

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3 dim sum baskets stacking on top of each other

London is the only place in Europe to have a fully fledged China Town, and as such we can enjoy Yum Cha (lit. drink tea), the southern Chinese/Cantonese style of afternoon tea.  When Chinese people say let’s go to Yum Cha it means having dim sum dishes.   These are little dishes of food, normally hot and savoury, bite size pieces which you can pick up easily with chopsticks; traditionally the food are usually steamed in bamboo baskets, nowadays there are selections of fried and cold dishes too.  Hong Kong is really the ultimate dim sum heaven where having dim sum is a daily affair, the food is cheap, fresh and variety endless.

In my opinion to enjoy dim sum to its fullest, you really need to know how to use the chopstick.  Dim sum is made for eating with chopsticks.  The second is that dim sum has to be eaten while it is still hot, or at least warm.  Once the steamed food turned cold, it is horrible, and it is best to have at least 3 people because each dish contains three or four pieces so with at least 3 people you can share and order more of different dishes.

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The above is a typical example of a dim sum meal I had.  I have put names to each dish to give you an idea.  There are more dishes to come but these were some of the first ones to arrive.  We had 6 people that day and we might have ordered a bit too much.  However, we did manage to eat it all.

As I mentioned earlier, dim sum have to be eaten while it is still hot.  In a traditional dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong, these food baskets would be placed inside a steamed cart.  The waitresses push these steamed carts around the restaurant and customers pick out what they want from these carts as they come round so the food is literally pipping hot and no food is wasted as you choose what you want throughout the meal.   There used to be one such proper cart dim sum restaurant in London’s china town for a very long time.  Unfortunately, it closed down last year (2017) :(.    All the other dim sum restaurant I know off, you basically order what you want and eat each dish as and when it comes, while it is hot.   Once a dish is emptied, it is cleared to make way for  another.  You don’t wait for everything to arrive as in western meal because the food will be cold especially that the weather is already much colder here than it is in Asia.

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Don’t be surprise if you see dishes such as chicken feet, intestine or tripe or other parts of the animal.  This is the Chinese idea of waste not want not.  The Chinese will make use of and eat as much of the animal as possible (probably the same in many other parts of the world too).  It is amazing that, chicken feet, which is practically all bones can be turned into such delicacy.   Take it from me,  it is delicious.  I order one such dish every time.

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It could be hard for anyone not familiar with dim sum to try order some but there are a few restaurants that provide a pictured menu to make it a bit easier.  Below is one such menu.

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Page 1 – dim sum menu – Goody2shoos
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Page 2 – dim sum menu – Goody2shoos

Note these pictured menu doesn’t tell you the price of the dishes.  This is because in the last few years prices constantly changing.  You need to ask for the accompanying paper menu which has the prices and check it from there.  In this particular restaurant you can just point to the dishes you want using the pictured menu.  In other restaurants you get a piece of paper with the list of all the dim sum dishes so you indicate which dish you want by putting a tick against each.

Until about 2-3 years ago, it’d cost me approximately £10-12 for a dim sum meal.  But now, the same meal would be around £16-18, a jump of about 50%.  This is due to the fact everything is more expensive, and also previously, Chinese restaurants in China town don’t have a service charge.  Now, a service charge seems to a standard way to increase costs even though I don’t feel service has changed at all.

Here’s a short video of a dim sum meal and a walkabout in London’s China town and Leicester Square.

London – an Afternoon Tea @The Colonnade Hotel

Colonnade_40This is my 5th post on ‘an Afternoon tea’ series.  To see the others, go to the ‘MORE POSTS’ section on the side bar.  Click on the drop down list and choose ‘Afternoon Tea’ from the drop down menu.

This afternoon tea at the Colonnade Hotel was in fact, my very first introduction to afternoon tea using  Groupon vouchers. There were four of us this time and one friend had come over from France especially to try the ‘English afternoon tea’ experience so we indulged her by forming a group of four to partake in this.  We picked this venue because she was staying at a place very south London, whereas this venue is the very opposite in North West London so she had to travel all the way across town, from one end to the other, to see the difference faces of London :). Another reason is that the hotel is very near to the Little Venice section of the canal which we wanted to walk around afterward.

Continue reading “London – an Afternoon Tea @The Colonnade Hotel”

London – an Afternoon Tea @Yum Sa Restaurant

Yum Sa is a Chinese/Cantonese word literally meaning ‘drink tea’ and to the Chinese this means having Dim Sum (literally mean touching the heart).  Dim Sum are tiny dishes of mostly steam food usually in a bamboo basket (I’ll be doing a post on this at some point so wait for it).  But this Yum Sa place advertises itself as a Thai restaurant so it looks like this is some sort of an Asian fusion food type of place.  I love Dim Sum and with a big discount on the Groupon voucher – can’t miss it so off I went, brought and booked a table for two at the restaurant to try it out. Continue reading “London – an Afternoon Tea @Yum Sa Restaurant”