Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Royal China

Enter into Royal China and you are immediately transported far, far from the stylish bars and glass towers world of Canary Wharf and into a typical Chinese restaurant in England any year between now and, ooh, 1980. There are large, round tables with the lazy-susans, a yellow colour scheme, leather-bound menus, waitresses in "traditional" dress. (Just make sure you avoid the windows, or the stunnning riverside views of modern skyscrapers will ruin the illusion.)
But it's the food, not the decor that packs this place every lunchtime with local workers, and secures it a good reputation amongst those who've spent years in Asia.
There's a good value, two course business lunch on offer for GBP 11, but for my money (and not very much of it, espesially considering this is the Wharf) you really can't beat the dim sum.
There are daily specials such abalone, or prawns in parma ham, but this time we opted for the main menu.

The steamed curry squid (2.40) brought a plate of tiny little molluscs, yellowed by the spicy sauce, the ubiquitous bamboo box locking in the aromas.

The prawn and chive dumplings (2.85 for three) were arguably the star of the show - piles of green, fresh chives contrasting in colour in flavour with big, juicy prawns inside little parcels the mastery of which never ceases to amaze me.

The equi-priced scallop dumplings were a lot less interesting but still nice.
Then came the Royal China's signature cheung fun (3.20 for three) -- long, mini-pancake rolls of the dumpling dough filled with prawns, pork and spices. The final dish of dry shrimp cheung fun (2.85) was left largely uneaten, basically because we were stuffed (even though the waitress had suggested we might want to order more) and partly because dried shrimp ain't a patch on big juicy prawns.
Throw in a couple of tsing taos (3.50 each) and you can have a very filling and tasty meal for two with service (added at 13 percent) for under 30 quid. Be careful though - we ordered a side of pak choy, which was delicately flavoured with ginger and garlic. But its deliciousness was somewhat reduced when the bill revealed the 8.20 price tag, which on closer examination turned out to be in line with other side dishes.
But hey, when the prawns are cheap who cares about the veg? This is almost certainly my favourite venue in the area so far.

Royal China Riverside, 20 West Ferry Circus, E14 8RR; Tel. 0207 719 0888; Tube: Canary Wharf;

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