Food and the city..the hags are here to eat and then tell you about it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

PHOENIX PALACE

3-5 Glentworth St. London. NW1 5PG
Telephone: 020 7486 3515
Nearest Underground: Baker Street
Opening Hours: Mon to Sat 12 noon – 11.30pm
Sunday and Bank Holidays 11am – 10:30pm

Sunday yum cha has become a ritual for us hags. So much so, when our usual yum cha establishment (Royal China, Putney) was bursting at the brim with customers, requiring a one hour wait, we were not deterred. We decided in the name of research we would venture into unknown territory.

Phoenix Palace was recommended by our architect/Tiger Woods wannabe friend (Grand Master Tiger Wee). He has been in London for so long, he always knows exactly where to go, tailored for each occasion.

Pheonix Palace Shop Front

As soon as we walked into the restaurant we were impressed by the number of people queuing. Always a good sign in a Chinese restaurant. We only had to wait 10 minutes for a table. We didn’t mind. We were astounded at the grandness and enormity of the place. It stands out from the run of the mill Chinese restaurants we usually frequent. It reminds me of one of the inner courts in the Summer Palace, Beijing. On entering through the impressive archway we could see that the centre of the restaurant was split into two levels. The upper level has a dark wooden decorative banister upon which at intervals are mounted small lights enclosed within a wooden lantern. Very tastefully done…in fact, the restaurant is so beautifully decorated, we were bracing ourselves for the price. We needn’t have worried. The restaurant was bristling with activity and humming with the energy of people meeting with friends and family, enjoying the food.

Inside restaurant

Inside restaurant

The dim sum menu was supplemented with the chef’s specials. It was a decent menu including all of the basics. Each table is given a menu card (in Chinese) which you are required to tick what you fancied. If you don’t understand written Chinese, as we do, all you have to do is match up the numbers with the corresponding English translation in the menu.

The Other Hag and prince consort threw caution to the wind and started ticking with enthusiasm. The Other Hag had not eaten dinner the day before, courtesy of the pig -out session at The Ship . The Man was ravernous and wanted to order desserts now. I, the voice of reason, told him it was better to wait until we had finished the main meal. Who knows what we can fit in the end. Wise words indeed.

Less than 10 minutes later, the food came. The egg custard tarts came first. I’m always puzzled by this. For some reason, they always come first. I always save them for the last as it’s the sweetest. Anyway, we were in for a pleasant surprise. There were six small tarts. Every yum cha restaurant I’ve been to, have only ever provided four maximum. Everyone dived into the tarts as we were starving. The custard was fresh, delicate and not too sweet. The pastry was light and flakey. The first test was passed with flying colours.

Mmmmmm tarts

Over the next 45 minutes the rest of the food came along in appropriately staggered intervals. It’s important, when eating at a dim sum restaurant, not to have everything come at once. A normal order would be to have about twelve dim sum between four people. If they all came at once, they would all grow cold and unappetising. The whole idea with yum cha, is to relax and chill-out. Take a sip of Chinese tea, pick up a tasty morsel at your leisure, natter away for a while – an unhurried affair. Here the waitress was brilliant. I have read other reviews on this restaurant. The one thing that stands out are the complaints about the rudeness and inattentiveness of the staff. Nothing could be further from the truth on this occasion. Our waitress was friendly and obliging. She came to our table at intervals to make sure that we were receiving our dishes and methodically ticking off each one as we did. Excellent service.

We had ordered two bowls of pei darn sau yuk congee (pork and thousand year old duck eggs – excuse my pinyin). Here was our fatal mistake which eventually led to our stomachs’ early demise. Normally at yum cha places, the congee comes in small bowls. Hence the order of two portions. Not this place. Two huge bowls came filled with steaming congee. To make things worse, it was actually good. The congee was smooth and not at all watery. The pork was shredded (that’s how I like it) with good servings of the pei dan (egg). We were forced to finish it to the last drop.

Next came pickled chicken’s feet. White as a ghost (or my thighs), this dish never looks appetising. The boys consumed this with relish and proclaimed it as one of the best they’ve had.

Ultra white chicken feet

Then arrived the turnip cakes (tasty), cha siu buns (pork enveloped within fluffy heaven-sent bread) and chicken feet in black bean sauce.

Char sui buns, Chicken feet, turnip cake

The pork spareribs marinated in black bean sauce was succulent and bursting full of flavour. The prawns in the har gau were of generous size. The shui mai had prawns mixed in as well making it delightful. The duck in glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf was divine. The har cheong fun (again, decent sized prawns) and dough cheong fun were also delicious I’m sure – but by this stage eating was becoming a chore. We had simply ordered too much and were all struggling.

pork spareribs, duck in glutinous rice, har gau, shui mai

The needle that really broke the camel’s back were the baked char shui pastries. Even though I was stuffed to the brim, I took one for the team. They were egging me on. The Other Hag looked at me accusingly, helpfully pointing out the dishes I had not yet tried. Through the clouded haze of gluttony, even my stomach could recognise the char sui pastries were good.

char sui pastries, har cheong fun, dough cheong fun

The Man, the same person who wanted to pre-order the desserts, was groaning along beside me. He had eaten too much as well. Curiously, this did not stop him from seriously contemplating ordering the custard buns. Obviously the food over-flow had non-scientifically leaked into the brain preventing rational thought. Luckily, The Other Hag, a voice of reason, prevented him from ordering more.

A wonderful place for yum cha and reasonably priced as well. Prices range from £2-3 for each dim sum. We only paid £46 for four of us, including two soft drinks. We must try their a la` carte menu for dinner another time. You’ll have no trouble with the parking on Saturday or Sunday - it’s totally free. Oh and more importantly, if it's good enough for Gorden,Tony and Cherie - then it's good enough for me.

Gordon Ramsey

Cherie Blair

Tony Blair

HRH

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Prince Consort said...

Golly... those pale, white, scaly chicken feet do look appetizing!!! MMMMMMM GIVE ME SUM MO!!!

8:26 pm

 
Anonymous Pho Police said...

Did u have your "polo pau"

4:51 pm

 
Anonymous JR said...

I was just there, well, we were. Just the two of us. Fewer than an ideal number for yum cha, but them's the breaks.

Maybe we didn't order the right things, but what we did order was far too salty (except for the egg tarts, which did indeed come first), and everything that had a hint of pastry or wrapping was heavy and gluggy. The char siew bao were small, but heavy. The brined pork croquettes had a gooey consistency that stuck to the teeth and had very little filling, the 'pancakes' were essentially a deep-fried doughy tortellini. The chickens' feet in blackbean sauce were the hit for me, despite being nearly as over-salty as the pork rib. Oh, and the tea was good. I'm looking forward to trying somewhere else. Sadly posh decor doesn't improve the food.

6:14 pm

 

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