Dim sum are those tiny bites of deliciousness designed to be eaten over a long lazy brunch, traditionally served with tea and we just can’t get enough of them.
Originating from Southern China and specifically Hong Kong, dim sum (literally translated as ‘touch the heart’ ie rather than satiating an appetite) can be steamed, fried, baked and come in sweet or savoury varieties - all served in steaming bamboo baskets.
London’s rich Chinese culture means that we’re lucky enough to enjoy some pretty authentic dim sum, but instead of wandering aimlessly through Soho’s Chinatown, read our recommendations for the best dumplings in town.
Often cited as one of the best spots for modern Cantonese fine dining, Hakkasan’s unpretentious yet glamorous Hanway Place restaurant is definitely where to head if you have £58 burning a hole in your pocket one Sunday.
Their Dim Sum Sunday deal includes a half bottle of Louis Roederer champagne, a pre- and post-lunch cocktail, and dim sum of truly exceptional quality. Expect classics like the Chinese chive dumpling and innovations like the golden seafood and cheese roll, where you can practically taste that Michelin star. There’s also an extensive dim sum menu available other lunchtimes.
Hanway Place and Mayfair, see website for details.
A dazzling array of authentic dim sum awaits you at each of Royal China’s dramatically furnished restaurants. The Baker Street flagship is generally thought of as the best of the bunch, but Queensway is up there too, and all are reliably busy every Sunday, which is testament to their chefs’ skilled Canton cooking.
We love the honey roast pork puffs, which are suitably cloud-like and filled with the correct balance of sweet and savoury. Try the chilli chicken feet if you dare.
Six London branches, see website for details.
If you’re in the Knightsbridge area, head to Le Chinois at Millennium Hotel London for the daily Dim Sum Afternoon Tea — an absolute steal at £25. Head chef Anthony Kong is only 25 and has already racked up a 2 Rosette award from the AA Food Guide thanks to his modern and innovative Cantonese cuisine.
The tea features a spicy sautéed prawn in wasabi, crispy scallop rolls, and the ever popular char siu bao and more, along with a glass of champagne. Otherwise, opt for the a la carte and eat your way through the 100+ menu items.
Le Chinois, 17 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9NU.
Away from the traditional, Yauatcha offers something slightly different in its guise as a glossy basement tea party – complete with its signature fish tank.
The Soho branch opened in 2004, and was joined by the Broadgate outpost in 2015; the finely crafted dim sum is well worth reaching into your wallet for and happily bucks tradition by being served all day and night.
Dishes veer towards fusion influences and include lobster dumpling with tobiko caviar, ginger and shallot and crystal dumpling wrap with pumpkin and pinenut.
Soho and City branches, see website for details.
Beijing native Ning Ma grew up helping her family run a dumpling stall in the city’s street markets. After moving to London as a teenager, she was keen to bring a taste of home to our city.
A series of successful supper clubs grew into a proper restaurant in Brixton Village and now Mamalan (named for her mother) boasts four London sites serving the street food of her youth.
Pork and Chinese leaf steamed dumplings and a vegan offering of wood ear mushroom, spinach and vermicelli dumplings sit alongside traditional Beijing style skewers. You can also try a dumpling class at the E20 location.
Clapham, Brixton, Dalston and Hackney Wick, see website for details
New World Chinese
Dim Sum in Chinatown is generally underwhelming, sadly, but there are a few exceptions. We’ve heard good things about the dim sum at the New World Chinese for Sunday lunch; a trolley is wheeled around the tables offering freshly cooked authentic dumplings which allows you to pick and choose your favourites.
The prices are low and the atmosphere is buzzy. Like the rest of Chinatown service is a bit hit and miss, but that’s all part of the fun.
New World Chinese, 1 Gerrard Place, W1D 5PA.
Usually the preserve of the super-rich, famously expensive Novikov from Russian restaurateur Arkady Novikov is surprisingly accessible when it comes to its dim sum. The restaurant splits itself into two styles: Italian and Asian, and whilst critics are divided in terms of its overall offering, the relatively bargain prices of the dim sum lunch menu are not to be sniffed at.
At £18 for 12 pieces of three different dim sum, this is great value for a restaurant that took £10million to develop and sits in one of the priciest postcodes in town. Varieties include kimchi wagyu dumplings (obviously) and the intriguing fresh duck tongues.
Novikov, 50A Berkeley Street, W1J 8HA.