Pecking proverbial milk tops from fine dining establishments across the UK

Friday, 5 November 2010

Yauatcha, London

15 Broadwick Street, Soho, W1F 0DL *
Open Monday to Saturday 12pm -11.45pm Sunday 12pm-10.30pm. No lunch menu. This meal £55 per head


I did not arrive at Yauatcha in the best of spirits. Rain, roadworks and a taxi journey from the innermost circle of hell meant that by the time I entered the chic Soho venue I was out of breath, wet and 20 minutes late to meet L. This was not a good start to a visit to a restaurant about which I was already apprehensive. On the one hand, I had heard nothing but good things about this Michelin starred Chinese restaurant. On the other, Yauatcha was started by a certain Alan Yau, at whose most famous creation, Hakkasan, I had a disastrous meal in Abu Dhabi only 3 months ago. Although both restaurants have left his empire, this common thread was unnerving.

When I sat down, two things immediately reassured me that tonight would be better than that spent in the gulf. First, L had ordered me a perfectly mixed Bombay Sapphire and tonic which was waiting at my seat when I arrived. Secondly, the restaurant itself looked breathtaking. The main dining room is underground. Dark, with carved black wood predominating and tasteful lighting throughout, the place is nothing if not achingly hip. The crowing glory, though, is surely the tropical fish tank-cum-bar which dominates the east side of the room. Tacky? Not here. It works.

The delay meant we were both hungry, and quickly ordered a good selection from the menu to share. First to arrive were the venison puffs; slow cooked juicy venison in flaky, crisp puff pastry. These were delieghtful morsels, intensely flavoursome, and enough on their own almost completely banish memories of Hakassan in the UAE (7/10).
Next to come were the dim sum proper. Scallop shui mai were tasty; the scallop cooked just right with a little hint of spice which did not overwhelm the it, all in and a perfectly steamed parcel which seemed to melt in the mouth (6/10). The char sui bun arrived next, which was almost identical to the ping-pong version of the same with which I have long had a love affair. Fluffy white exterior and incredibly intensely flavoured centre of hoi sin pork (6/10).

The char sui bun was followed by a prawn and beancurd cheung fun. This was not a dish which I had had before, nor one which I would have ordered but the attentive and helpful waiter recommended it as a personal favourite and we chose it accordingly. The cheung fun arrived in the form of a long rice noodle roll,sliced like a California sushi roll and covered in a sweet soy sauce. There was ample for two on the plate. The dish was simply exquisite. The prawn was succulent, meaty and full of flavour – comparable to lobster tail. The bean curd gave a satisfying crunchy texture which complimented the prawn beautifully, and both worked perfectly with the sweet sauce (8/10) So good was it, that we promptly ordered another.

Shortly after came an order of fried chili squid with wheat flake and curry leaf. This was another triumph for Yauatcha. The squid had been sliced and lightly scored before being deep fried. The spices were subtle, with the curry leaf detectable just and a very satisfying kick of chili heat. The golden fried wheat flakes were generously scattered over the whole dish (along with more chili flakes) adding a very pleasing crunchy texture, with both L and I picking at them with our fingers long after the squid had disappeared (7/10).

The final course to arrive (at the same time as the second portion of cheung fun) was a portion of crispy duck rolls. This was a very pleasant version of the best thing on any Chinese takeaway menu, served with a generous number of pancakes, crisp vegetables and a good hoi sin source that I was only slightly too full to enjoy properly (6/10).

If my trip to Yautscha found me arriving frustrated, it left me leaving happy. Not only is the price outstanding but here is a restaurant whose food is truly deserving of its Michelin star. Add in a pitch perfect décor and friendly, knowledgeable staff, and I can only say that the hype surrounding this restaurant is all that it deserves. Mr Yau, for Abu Dhabi, you are forgiven.

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