Where to Find a Taste of China With Creative Dim Sum in London
London offers great dim sum, even outside Chinatown. Royal China Club and Royal China on Baker Street are famous for it. Mayfair’s Hakkasan, HKK in the City, and Hutong in the Shard tower all serve fine platters.
Victoria is less well-known as a dining destination, yet there is a fine Chinese restaurant near the train station. The dim sum at A. Wong is true to tradition, albeit with a style of cooking that makes for lighter food without sacrificing flavor.
The owner is Andrew Wong, 31, who was born in London to a Hong Kong family. His parents owned the restaurant, which they called Kym’s, and both worked there. Wong and his sister spent much of their childhood at the Cantonese eatery. He visited Hong Kong regularly as a child and his grandfather also had a restaurant, in Soho.
“I didn’t plan to take over.” Wong said in an interview. “I went to Oxford to study chemistry at Somerville, but I didn’t finish my degree. I moved to LSE and did social anthropology. It was only when my father passed away that I decided to help out in the kitchen. I enjoyed it so much, I enrolled at Westminster Kingsway on a whim and absolutely loved it. I spent four years there.”
After qualifying from the London college, Wong went on to work in China, training in hotel kitchens in Beijing and Qingdao and studying at the Sichuan culinary institute in Chengdu. In 2012, he decided to take over the restaurant and move away from British-Cantonese cuisine.
In addition to an a la carte menu and about 25 dim sum plates, including foie gras sesame dumplings, Wong offers a 10-course Taste of China, which includes the excellent Xinjiang barbecued lamb with cumin and chili with pomegranate salad.
“When my parents came over from Hong Kong, all the Chinese food in London was Cantonese,” Wong said. “Only recently do you get Sichuan and northern Chinese cuisine. My menu is about celebrating less-known dishes from around China.”
I like to go there for lunch and order the entire dim sum menu, which may include a croquette puff where the usual taro is replaced by a soft-boiled quail’s egg; Shanghai dumpling, with vinegar injected into the casing; and a char siu bao pork bun that is honey-roasted, not steamed.
Highlights include pork-and-prawn dumplings topped with pork crackling; shrimp dumplings with a citrus foam; salt-and-pepper prawns; and Yunnan mushroom, pork and truffle dumplings. Order the lot and you are looking at about 35 pounds ($58) a person. There are even sweet-and-sour barbecued pork ribs.
The dim sum is only available at lunch. The Taste of China menu costs 45 pounds and the Peking Duck Feast is, in a nod to lucky numbers, 38.88 pounds. A thoughtful wine list helps make A. Wong a modern and affordable Chinese restaurant.
The Bloomberg Questions
How much? About 50 pounds and more with wine.
Sound level? Acceptable: About 70 decibels.
Inside tip? Book early and ask for a window table.
Special feature? Creative dim sum.
Will I be back? Yes.
Date place? Yes.
A Wong, 70-71 Wilton Road, Victoria, London, SW1V 1DE. Information: +44-20-7828-8931 or http://www.awong.co.uk/
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor.
Sound-Level Chart (in decibels): 65-70: Office noise. 70-75: Starbucks. 75-80: London street. 80-85: Alarm clock at closest range. 85-90: Passing bus. 85-95: Tube train.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)