A contemporary dim sum teahouse. That’s how Yauatcha describes itself on its website and how could that fail to sound like a really fun idea? Lots of small dishes to graze upon, laid back chatter in between comforting sips of tea. It’s perfect for catching up with friends or a casual date. Add a Michelin star to its credentials, however, and my former student self begins to get nervous. Visions of minuscule morsels and a monstrous bill begin to rise in front of my eyes.
That’s why I couldn’t quite believe it when I saw an eight-dish tasting menu for two for the very specific amount of £28.88. It may only be available Mondays to Thursday between 2 and 6pm, but £14.44 a head just didn’t seem credible.
A Michelin-star restaurant that is actually affordable?! Yauatcha is a creation from Alan Yau, who previously developed the Wagamama and Busaba Eathai restaurant chains, so perhaps affordability shouldn’t be that unexpected. Except from that fact that he also created the high class Hakkasan, also with Michelin star and where prices are a casual £58 for a Sunday dim sum menu.
The catch had to be in the portions. The dim sum had to be so small that they might be accidentally inhaled whilst sneezing. One sharp intake of breath and the food would vanish forever, never once grazing the tongue.
These, however, proved to be wild fantasies. I left Yauatcha comfortably full and desperate to throw my money at them again: the food, in case you haven’t guessed, was beyond excellent.
Quite frankly, I have no idea why Yauatcha has escaped my radar, and if it’s not been on your map either, sound the alarms, get out your GPS and cancel your weekend plans – dining here should be an imperative for any foodie.
Behind a front of dark blue glass lies a sleek, modern interior with dark wood-topped tables, padded chairs and cakes. That’s right – beautiful, colourful and extravagant cakes lining a bar near the front window. The temptation is so blatant that it should be illegal.
We settled in, placed our orders and awaited the goods, fortunately with the desserts out of our line of sight. They were, however, soon forgotten as a myriad of delights decorated our table.
The first dish to come was sticky rice with chicken and shrimp wrapped in a lotus leaf. Simple though this was, it was one of the highlights of the meal. It was beautifully flavoured that I would have happily been served it as an entire meal and eaten a giant bowlful without getting bored. It was so delicious that I found myself trying to save some until last.
We were then presented with a variety of dumplings which banished unfortunate past memories of stodginess and really highlighted the subtlety that is so often lost in Chinese cuisine.
Each dish was a delight and devoured with pleasure, and perhaps a little sorrow: they tasted so good that they inspired extreme greed and cravings for more.
Particularly worth noting was the venison puff that carefully balanced sweetness against the rich flavour of the meat. The prawn and beancurd cheung fun (steamed rice roll), whilst not the most aesthetic piece to Western eyes – indeed it is sometimes called ‘pig intestine’ due to its appearance – was firm but light, and again disappeared all too quickly.
Even though we were embarking on an extraordinary tasting journey, we were aware of the high quality service we received: our waitress had exactly the right approach – that perfect balance between professionalism, genuine interest and pride in what was being served. And, of course, why wouldn’t the waiting staff be proud? They’re serving excellent food. Yauatcha is in a class of its own.
Yauatcha 5/5 – Stop press. I think this is my first 5/5 review ever. I cannot praise Yauatcha enough.
Food 5/5 – Go try it for yourself. Words fail me.
Value 4/5 – Perhaps a little expensive for dim sum but you can’t fault the quality.
Atmosphere 4/5 – A laid back vibe, which is good because we were squeezed quite close to the other tables.
Service 5/5 – Completely on the ball.
Where: 15-17 Broadwick Street, Soho, London, W1F 0DL