3 Chelverton Road
Putney. SW15 1RN
Phone number: 020 8780 1520
Nearest Tube: East Putney (or Putney BR)
Opening Hours: Mon to Sat 12pm -3:30pm
6:30pm – 11pm
6:30pm – 11pm
Average price per person (for dim sum only): £10 (including Chinese tea)
Royal China is like the Starbucks’ of Chinese restaurants. Sprawled out in strategic positions around London. Their first restaurant was actually in Queensway, Bayswater – a place which is bloody hard to get a table for dim sum on the weekends. All branches do not accept bookings for dim sum. Everyone just have to wait their turn – so be sure to turn up as soon as the doors open – cos that’s what everyone does.
We like the Putney branch as it’s close to where we live, isn’t as crowded as the more popular branches in Bayswater and Baker Street yet still maintaining the high standard in dim sum dining. The décor is very formal and luxurious. Attractive lighting, mahogany interior, Chinese murals. White table cloths and proper gold dragon chopstick prop-uperers (don’t know their proper name) complete the look. As a rule of thumb go early for yum cha. A small line does form at around 12:30pm requiring a half-hour wait if you require a large table. Although if it’s raining, take your time…Putney people are less likely to venture out…lazy I guess.
They have all the usual suspects here in terms of dim sum. I used to think that it was pretty damn good until I ate at Phoenix Palace. It still is good but I think value for money, Phoenix Palace still wins hands down. At Royal China, most of the dim sum comes in lots of three – always annoying as most people dine in even numbers. It’s their evil knievel way of getting you to order two portions instead of one.
Their dim sum menu is very extensive and certainly contains more items than Phoenix Palace. A word of warning. As soon as you order they’ll try to recommend ‘specials’ of the day. This can range from steamed scallops, tiger prawns with whiskers or yam balls with tiger prawns. Yes, yes – all are very delicious, but when the bill lands you find yourself cursing your gluttonous oversight. What could be a reasonable £10 per head explodes disastrously into £18 per person, just because of two specials ordered. Be wary and firm.
I’ll just briefly give a run-down on some of the dishes they have.
Char sui bao (£1.80) – my fav and one of the best. Probably the first thing I blurt out when ordering. Some might think that that’s because it’s the only Cantonese words I know. They may be right, but I know what I like. Small but the dough is so light and delicious.
Pan-fried turnip paste cakes (£1.80)
Deep fried chilli and salt calamari
Har gao (£2.20) – generously sized prawns, but note the number.
Siu mai mixed with prawns (£2.20) – lovely to devour, but again, note the sacred number three can not be breached.
Spare ribs in black bean sauce (£1.80) – tasty and well marinated
Spicy chicken claws in black bean sauce (£1.80)
Roast pork cheong fun (£2.30) – I prefer prawns instead.
Glutinous rice in lotus leaf (£3.00)
Baked egg tarts (£1.80) – note that in the pic we had six in total. No, the restaurant didn’t lapse in their counting skills – we just ordered two portions. Light flakey pastry with perfect custard in the middle, not too sweet at all. A perfect way to end the meal.
Overall quite a high standard, but if they can just get over their obsession with ‘threes’ it would be better. Service is quick, efficient and friendly. The manager is the short-haired lady in the suit and tie. Avoid dining here for dinner though. I’ve done so maybe three times and it has always been disappointing. Not horrendous. But I would expect better things from the Royal China chain. Oh yeah…twice I’ve spotted the great Aussie tennis player Pat Cash here with his family. Good enough for Pat…certainly good enough for the Hags.
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