Dim sum is one of my favourite cuisines. You know how summertime barbecues are some sort of parallel universe where no one judges you for having three burgers and a hot dog? Dim sum is kind of like that but a) tastier, b) lighter and c) more fun (ahoy hoy, little chopsticks!). Obviously, Anni and I took advantage of the situation and embarked upon a ten course culinary extravaganza at Yauatcha, a Michelin-starred Chinese dim sum teahouse in Soho. We’ve both wanted to go for ages! Anni, because she saw the restaurant on How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days; me, because I just love swanky eats. And with Chinese New Year just around the corner, what better way to welcome in the Year of the Sheep?
This totally exposes the Cornish maid in me, but it still surprises me to see a restaurant full at any point in the week other than a Friday or Saturday night. We arrived on a bustling Tuesday night and revelled in the atmosphere. I suppose the pedants out there would point out that dim sum is traditionally served in a more serene, homely setting, but Yauatcha’s vibes are sociable; pleasant but unpretentious. It was refined enough to feel like we were having a memorable experience, but not so much that Anni and I couldn’t stop in between courses to do this…
…And burst into fits of laughter when I realised that she had been pulling my leg the whole meal, and that I hadn’t, in fact, eaten a goldfish. Seriously, I almost had an existential crisis at the memory of my first pet, Golden Graham, and what a disservice I’d done to his memory by eating one of his kind. Anni Bould, you jester!
RIP Golden Graham 😦
The décor reflects that marriage of tradition and contemporary reality; we were in the basement (a preferable location to the upstairs tea room, so when you’re booking, make sure that’s where you’ll be). With help from their partner, The Campaign For Wool, the restaurant has adopted a characteristic of those born in the year of the sheep: artistic creativity. There’s a pop art window display, showing different breeds of sheep all jazzed up, Yauatcha-style, as well as coloured sheep statuettes throughout the upstairs tea room.
This is all a temporary set up for February, but downstairs, we experienced the usual scheme. Candles adorned the walls, a long, exotic fish tank propped up the bar and I wanted to take the turquoise seating with its subtle cherry blossom pattern straight back to my flat.
Unsurprisingly, this twist on tradition is reflected in the menu. You’ll find classics (hello char sui bun, my old friend) alongside intriguing additions, which you’ll only find in Yauatcha.
We decided to order everything (yes, everything) off the special Chinese New Year menu, but asked our waiter, Yilmaz, for his personal opinion on our choices. Focused, helpful and with damn good taste, he told us there are three dishes he doesn’t finish his shift without eating, and he would bring them out to us one-by-one, as a complimentary surprise. Oh Yilmaz, you do flatter us so!
With our waiter’s unimposing attentiveness, as well as the host, Jonathon, popping over to welcome us and have a chat a few times, we were reminded that it can often be service that winnows a good restaurant from a great one. Take heed, The Hawksmoor.
Of our ten courses (and no, I cannot believe I am gluttonous enough to be writing this), and in no particular order, these were my favourites:
Treat #1: Baked venison puffs
…or, as Anni tried to convince me, little Cornish pasties. Oh honey, you think that’s what a pasty looks like? You’re so Surrey.
This was my favourite dish of the night, and is apparently the restaurant’s signature dish.
Treat #5: Petits Gateaux (pudding course number three of three)
Sheep’s milk yoghurt bavarois, with lemon curd in the middle and lemon sable on a bed of (green) lemon sponge and pandan buttercream. They garnished it with sheep’s yoghurt cream, as well as crystallised grains, flowers and cress. I’m not great with flowers in food, but it was certainly beautiful. The little Yauatcha garnish was adoreable!
Bonus treat: the Yáng Walker
Only available this February, the Yáng Walker (or The Shepherd) contains a concoction of Asian ingredients including Du Kang Baijiu, JohnnieWalker Black Label whisky, Japanese plum sake, rosemary, grapefruit juice, ginger bitters and lime. Definitely one for those with a sweet tooth.
Many thanks to the folks at Yauatcha for a fantastic evening* – I can’t wait to come back! Maybe next time I’ll bring the type of dinner guest who won’t drag me into sex shops to pick up her regular supply of viagra and poppers on the way home…
*I was a guest of Yauatcha but my opinions, as they always have and will be, are entirely my own.