LAUREATE CHINESE RESTAURANT
64 Shaftsbury Avenue
London W1D 6RU
Tel: 020 7437 5088
Fax: 020 7437 5882
Nearest Tube: Leicester Square/Piccadilly Circus
Average Price: 10-15 per head (ex. alcohol)
Dim sum is the traditional Sunday lunch for most Chinese families around the world. In London, walking along Chinatown the number of restaurants offering Dim Sum on the weekends is staggering. Laureate Chinese Restaurant, sitting on the corner of Wardour and Shaftsbury Avenue, is just one of the many eateries in Chinatown offering good value dim sum in better than average surroundings.
On a busy Sunday afternoon, one would be hard pressed to find an empty Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. Locals and tourists alike flock to this well know landmark to feast on the many delectable treats on offer. “Dim Sum” translated from the Cantonese dialect literally means a touch of the heart. However in this respect is the Chinese version of the tasting menu. There are scores of dishes on offer and each portion is only small. The idea is that each dish selected is to be shared amongst the whole table so that everyone gets to sample more dishes. A typical meal to satisfy 4 people would normally require about 8-10 different selections of dim sum, obviously depending on the appetites its feeding.
On this occasion, this Hag was supposed to meet some family and as they were in the business (restaurant business that is), they’d recommended the Laureate. This restaurant was relatively new to the Chinatown scene and it definitely showed. Pristine white table cloths with smart décor and smartly dressed wait staff looked inviting. Unlike quite a lot of Chinese restaurants around the area, we weren’t treated to the usual rude behavior nor the barking orders from wait staff but rather the friendlier smiles and service. Hopefully this type of service is here to stay as often with new restaurants, they start off with the best intentions and it deteriorates with time.
Anyways, enough waffling – getting down to the business at hand. As we were with someone familiar with the restaurant, we’d left the ordering to her and magically after 15 minutes, all sorts of delicious things started to appear. There were the usual suspects – the pork and prawn dumplings (siu mai) and steamed prawn dumplings (har kau). Unlike quite a few places, each serving came with 4 individual dumplings, which is quite good when sharing. The steamed pork spare ribs in black bean (a fav of the Prince Consort) were also quite good.
Other more typical dishes which we’d tried were the deep fried squid cakes (delicious!), deep fried prawn dumplings (not too shabby either) and my personal favourite – the pan fried turnip cakes was also quite good.
For the braver souls out there (and I’m not one of them), chicken feet also graced our tables. There were two kinds – braised and the Thai style and both were heartily approved by The Man and Prince Consort. For the uninitiated, braised chicken feet is one where the feet have been deep fried and then braised in soy sauce, black beans and other good stuff (I think) and steamed whilst the Thai style is a pickled version. No braising, no frying. Great for those who like it but then again, picking out little chicken toes from my teeth isn’t my favourite feeling so I’ll leave it to those who like it. Another specialty of the day, which might not appear on the menu but its definitely there if you ask for it is cold duck’s tongue. Did you know that there’s a bone in the middle of a duck’s tongue? Well, now you know and if you’re adventurous, definitely give it a go. Personally, not for me but hey I’ve given it a go and I can definitely say I won’t be having it again.
The list of food goes on – steamed rice flour dumplings with prawns, pork and a deep fried dough dumpling (yau cha koay), steamed pork wrapped in bean curd (sin jook kin – please forgive my attempts at the phonetic presentation of the food names they’re spelt as they’re pronounced in Cantonese so I can’t guarantee their accurateness in other Chinese dialects), steamed scallop dumplings and several others. It was more than enough to satisfy the appetites of 6 hungry adults who did nothing but inhale the food presented to them. One dish stands out which deserves an honourable mention though – the salted fish and pork rice pot was excellent and it will definitely be on my list of things to order next time. The silken pork flavoured with a hint of salted fish and served over a smallbed of greens and rice was a wonderful treat. And the desserts – silken almond pudding was a great way to end the meal.
At the end of the day, each dim sum ranged from 1.90 – 2.50, which is a little cheaper than the norm. For the 6 of us the total damage was 65, hardly a dent in the wallet for the amount of food we ate. Next time you’re in Chinatown, head down to the Laureate and give yourselves a treat.
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