by Carly-Ann Clements
Don’t fall for the cookie-cutter chain restaurant on the high street, try one of these dim sum houses. From traditional dumplings served with jasmine tea to cheeseburger spring rolls, there’s a little bite of everything on our list.
How do you tell if a restaurant serves good dim sum? If you can’t book a table on a Sunday to save your life. You can often see people queuing outside the world-famous Royal China in Queensway in the hopes of getting their hands on some of the traditional Cantonese fare. But, luckily, there are now six Royal China restaurants across London so you have more of an opportunity to sample those tongue-tingling beef balls and eye-rollingly good dumplings.
Joy King Lau
Fuss-free traditional dim sum can be found at this Chinatown staple just off Leicester Square. There are no gimmicks, no frills and no famous names, just delicious, authentic Hong Kong-style dim sum and plenty of it. Choose from the extensive list of dishes - which includes everything from comforting pork buns to spicy tripe - and enjoy each mouthful in the tightly packed but cosy eatery.
The Drunken Monkey
Cravings can strike at any time which can be a problem for dim sum lovers. But not those who frequent The Drunken Monkey in Shoreditch. Unlike most dim sum restaurants, the little parcels of fragrant delights can be ordered from open to close. Now, don’t expect a traditional experience because this east London hangout is known for its happy hour and DJs along with its tasty food - so maybe leave grandma at home.
Din Tai Fung
If you want to trade in the party vibes for a worthwhile queue, Din Tai Fung and its world-renowned dim sum is the place to go for all-day dining. The cult restaurant currently has over 160 restaurants across the globe and its London branch (which opened late 2018) is quickly gaining favour among London diners. But why is it so popular that people are waiting hours to feast? The soup dumplings. Xiao Long Bao often tops the list of favourite dim sum dishes but getting it right is hard. That’s why thousands are flocking to Covent Garden for the signature dish. Just do yourself a favour and download the Walk-in app so you don’t have to stand around for half a day.
Queuing not your thing? Then London’s OG soup dumpling purveyor is sitting in the heart of Chinatown. The cockily damned restaurant lives up to expectations serving up delicious pastry parcels and a great deal more. A little fancier than Joy King Lau and a lot less Insta-famous than Din Tai Fung, it’s a brilliant place to get a traditional meal that you’d be happy to take the in-laws to.
Probably as far away from traditional as you can expect, this New York imported restaurant is a hit with celebs across the pond and when you visit, you’ll see why. Offering quirky, trendy and cute plates of food along with unusual flavour combinations, Redfarm is a haven for the curious epicurean. Known for their Pac-Man dumplings and giant xiao long bao which comes with a straw to slurp up the plentiful broth, it’s a gimmicky hotspot that’s worth it.
Stepping away from the traditional but not the prestige is Michelin-starred Yauatcha. Focusing mainly on fusion cuisine, you can expect the odd non-traditional dish to pop up on the menu. The pristine presentation and upscale ingredients warrant the price of these exquisite plates but for those watching the pennies, visit the Soho branch between 12pm and 5pm Monday to Friday for a £28 set menu.
The king of high-end dim sum, Hakkasan is the pinnacle of fancy dining and delicious dim sum. The lavish menu features all the things you expect from a Michelin-starred venue - truffle, gold leaf, caviar - but it specialises in authentic modern Cantonese flavours which makes the slightly eye-watering price tag worth it.