Naomi Williams devours dim sum at Orient London, the Chinatown restaurant specialising in Szechuan and Cantonese cuisine
Orient London, situated slap bang in the heart of Chinatown specialises in Szechuan and Cantonese cuisine.
The area is buzzing with theatre goers and tourists, as well as Londoners on the hunt for their fix of dim sum, duck tongues or apparently jellyfish, which I later discover.
As I arrive I’m greeted straight away by a host who shows me to my table and as I take in the jade green surroundings, I can’t help but notice Orient branding everywhere – a current theme throughout the décor.
The space is brightly lit compared to other places I’ve visited in the area with a mix of circular and long tables, obviously geared up for larger groups.
A waiter politely unfolded my napkin and placed it on my knee which I’m sure you know, is typical behaviour in the more elegant of restaurants, but soon after I was then presented a poorly laminated, stained menu with no guidance or direction on how to navigate the rather lengthly list of over 20 pages.
So, this short-lived touch of elegance disappeared immediately. My guest and I enjoyed having a go though, like the pick and mix wall at the cinema, but this time it was from options hot, cold, bbq, ‘intermediate’ and noodle (and not a cherry cola bottles in sight!). It did all feel a little disjointed but we were very much engaged.
A big dim sum fan, we kicked things off with the steamed platter of prawn har gau, wild mushroom dumplings, scallop, prawn and chive. I particularly liked the light, scallop dumpling, although the wild mushroom dumpling lacked in flavour and the casing was a little too thick for my liking.
Alongside this we ordered the chicken salad with cucumber and jellyfish. I was intrigued to try jellyfish – it looked like an udon noodle but had the texture of squid and earthy in flavour, but this could have been the sauce it was dressed in which needed a little more spice.
It was tasty, and definitely the lighter option to the popular prawn sesame toast and spring rolls spotted on tables nearby.
To follow, I order the steamed seabass with ginger and spring onions, which the waitress kindly de-boned at the table. It was beautifully cooked and tasted superb. It could have had a little more ginger, but easily a highlight. My guest ordered the mixed barbecue platter of roast duck, honey roast pork and crackling pork.
The duck and crackling pork were head and shoulders above the honey roasted. It was a little too sweet, so if you’re a barbecue fan, opt for those two and you’ll be in for a treat.
The crispy pork had that crackling crack and tender meat below – the chef clearly knows what he’s doing. As a side we shared the braised Chinese mushrooms and bamboo shoots which arrived in a glossy sauce that masked their flavour and sadly, no sign of the bamboo shoot crunch I had hope for.
For dessert we shared the matcha mochi, recommended by our waiter. They had a subtle sweetness and were a great option to follow and balance an umami-rich meal.
If you’re a mochi fan, make sure get a portion to yourself as you get three which are quite small and trust me, you won’t want to share! Pu Er tea came next (in Orient branded teapots), a black tea with mellow floral notes and slightly earthy in taste – I’m now a convert.
The Wordrobe Verdict
Whilst it won’t become my regular go-to anytime soon, Orient London is definitely worth a visit. The staff are charming but still a little way to go in how they guide the diner from the beginning.
Being situated in prime tourist territory, you’re safe to prepare for both the aficionados and the novices.
Prices are middle of the road and note that dishes come out when they’re ready, but overall I’d say if you’re with a group of friends and after a feast it’s worth a punt!
Make it happen
Where: 15 Wardour Street London W1D 6PH
Times: Monday – Thursday: 12pm – 11.30pm. Friday – Saturday: 12pm – 12am. Sunday: 11.30am – 11pm
How: Click here to find out more and make a booking.
Words by Naomi Williams