Often lauded as the best dim sum in London, Royal China Club is part of the emergence of some great places to eat on Baker Street. When we arrived it was encouraging to see people waiting for tables; even more encouragingly, we could see that most of the diners were Asian, all of them heartily guzzling the amazing looking culinary works of art being paraded between their tables. The restaurant is a contemporary take on the traditional Chinese experience, complete with a wall of water tanks full of lobster, crab and halibut between the bar and the restaurant whose final days must be seen through the pointing fingers of hungry guests choosing their supper.
Thankfully the more traditional offering of being met with hot towels while we ordered our drinks is still in force, allowing us to freshen up before attacking the edamame and sweet and fragrant grilled tofu with hot chilli sauce we were given as we pondered our food orders.
The menu is huge, boasting every imaginable Chinese classic and an extensive dim sum menu. Having requested recommendations from the charming restaurant manager, we ploughed into a mixed seafood dim sum plate to share, adding a light soy sauce that perfectly balanced the sweet prawn and rich scallop parcels of deliciousness. We matched this with the salt and pepper squid, these dainty explosions of flavour were also surprisingly light. The crispy batter with deep fried curry leaves surrounding the squid was super-fragrant with warm garlic and had a spicy kick – spectacular. Being spoilt for choice, we opted to share a third starter of amazingly tender, spicy, sweet, sticky spare ribs that fell off the bone and left our lips tingling.
The menu’s descriptions of the main courses give little indication of the theatre that arrives at your table. The Dover sole is presented on an up-ended, deep-fried skeleton of the fish, the filets lightly stir-fried with asparagus and Chinese mushrooms, meaning that it tastes as spectacular as it looks. The Szechuan chicken is not for the faint-hearted; it is bathed in mountains of chillies and what initially appeared to be boulders of garlic (I was relieved to discover that they were actually macadamia nuts!) But what I thought would be simply too hot in fact proved to be a complex layering of fantastic spicy flavours – I may have broken into a sweat and had to catch my breath occasionally – but there was as much flavour as heat and I enjoyed every moment. Plus, the Chinese greens in ginger sauce helped cool things down.
Pudding was a simple plate of slices of iced (really ripe) fruit, which had the dangerously cleansing effect of making me hungry all over again. The tea menu is impressive and extensive, ranging from simple green tea to the Wuyi Yanzhonglan (Orchid of the Cliff).
This Chinese restaurant is definitely more banquet than take-away, and we thoroughly enjoyed an original feast served by fun and charming staff. We walked away feeling as though we had tasted a thousand flavours – and listing all the friends we should go back with.