With winter dragging its heels, February calls for comfort food. Having purged ourselves through January of all our Christmas indulgences, it’s finally time to eat properly. Dim sum is a delicate and refined form of cooking often associated with the Cantonese ritual of ‘taking tea’. Done well, it is one of the most moreish and comforting treats around. Yauatcha is a cool canteen in Soho which is a contemporary version of the old Chinese tea house. Fish tanks and low slung designer furniture sit beneath a twinkling ceiling in the downstairs restaurant while upstairs reveals an open kitchen and counters of freshly made macaroons and chocolates that set you centre stage of the action.
Despite the inventive cocktail list and different sakes by the carafe, we opted for Taiwanese jasmine green tea. This fragrant and gentle offering was ceremoniously poured while we surveyed the extensive dim sum menu. We took no time to choose eight dishes which our waitress said was ‘quite a lot for just two people’. Too much comfort might prove uncomfortable!
First to arrive was the emperor of comfort, the char sui bao. This parcel of sweet pork is encased in a duvet of fluffy, sweet dough that looks like a freshly baked bread roll, but is as light as a feather. This was followed by a crystal dumpling wrap with pumpkin and pine nuts, a delicious autumnal parcel. Feeling adventurous, we also tried the chicken feet with chilli black bean, accompanied by a delicious sweet and spicy broth that gave flavour to the gelatinous talons from which you have to suck the meat from the bone. This was an inelegant dish to eat (I had to pull the tiny bones from my mouth) and a step too far even for this culinary adventurer.
Blue swimmer crab shui mai and pan-fried chicken dumplings were delicate and flavoursome bundles with piquant dipping sauces and perfect examples of delicious dim sum. Having cleansed our palates with Chinese greens in ginger sauce, the stars of the show were undoubtedly saved until last. The roasted duck pumpkin puff offered the epic eating experience of biting into a crispy exterior to discover tender shredded duck layered with spices in perfectly formed baby pumpkin shapes. The jasmine tea smoked ribs, meanwhile, were a sticky and chewy succulent triumph of fragrant meat slathered in a wonderful BBQ sauce. Genuinely some of the best ribs I’ve ever had.
The waitress was right, we ordered a lot for two people and so we skipped pudding, although we couldn’t help admiring the sweet offerings of macaroons, milk chocolate praline cake and ‘the mandarin’ (a signature pudding) under the counter on our way out.
Yauatcha is great fun – reasonably priced and despite seeming like a lot, eight plates is the perfect amount for two people. Certainly somewhere to visit for the Chinese New Year celebrations on 3 February.