It seems fitting that when you feast on dim sum you do so in palatial surroundings. I have dumplinged it up at Dragon Palace, slummed it at Royal China, and now I have made it to the next ritzily titled restaurant on my dim sum hit list, Phoenix Palace. I see a theme developing here where the quality of the dim sum rises with the opulence of the restaurant name. The location of Phoenix Palace may be a nondescript through road next to Baker street tube but the the interior does its best to live up to the restaurants moniker. The decoration hails from the school of Chinese bling with huge gold dragons arching their backs menacingly next to red carved wooden chairs and heavy lacquered screens. Just my type of place.
The lanterns and dragons all added a sense of occasion to the important ceremony of Sunday dim sum (or yum cha if you want to be technically correct in these things). A big group of us gathered at Dragon Palace for my friend Alina’s birthday allowing us to be complete gluttons in ordering. Which is of course completely the point of dim sum and totally in keeping with the decadence of eating in not just a dim sum restaurant, but a dim sum PALACE.
Special of chicken and ginger dumplings – hand modeling courtesy of BJ
Our selection of tasty morsels started with the har gao prawn dumplings (£3.20) whose pliant, thin skin was stretched over plump, juicy prawns. The Shanghai pork dumplings (£2.80) erred on the stodgy side but off the specials list, the chicken and ginger dumpling (£3.20) was a revelation. Subtly flavoured with a delicate, translucent skin the dumplings were adorned with two peas making the them look a little like the dim sum version of ET.
Turnip cake (there were actually six servings on the plate but I was a bit late with my camera)
Turnip cake was just on the sticky edge of crispness and nice pieces of sausage flecked through while cheung fun with scallops (£4.80) were satisfyingly squidgy and slippery
Char siu bao
Delicately steamed char siu bao barbecued pork buns (£2.80) were a joy, filled with sweet and moreish pork while barbecued pork puff pastries (£2.80) continued in the porky barbecue theme. Another must pick was the spicy baby octopus (£3.80) which featured pliant octopus with a gentle chilli burn.
Mini onion pancakes
Mini onion pancakes (£2.80) were actually not pancakes at all but did not suffer from this confusion. The crisp, pastry balls were stuffed with tasty diced spring onion.
Barbecue suckling pig (£12) revealed tender moist pork beneath the crunchy skin.
The only misfire was the crispy duck (£20) which erred on the dry side which no amount of addictive plum sauce, scallions and pancakes could compensate for.
The palatial feeling ended with the service which was stretched at times and could at best be described as brusquely efficient. Still, I think there is much to love about Phoenix Palace and I would rate it up there with my favourite dim sum experiences in London. Perhaps I am onto something with my theory about the extravagance of the name being in correlation to the quality of the dim sum.
Details: Phoenix Palace, 5 Glentworth Street, Marylebone NW1 5PG (Ph 020 7486 3515) Tube: Baker Street
Damage: Reasonable. Our bill came to £25 a head but we ordered a ridiculous amount of food.