The wraps are off and Din Tai Fung’s third London restaurant, located in the heart of the West End’s most recognisable landmark, is now open.
Suddenly it seems that finally all the building work around Tottenham Court Road station is ending and like butterflies emerging from their chrysalis stunning new buildings are visible, and with a new walkthrough from Soho Square tying it all together
Centre Point, still one of London’s most standout and unique buildings, as well one of its more mysterious – check out the urban legends – is still being worked on but at its base Din Tai Fung have created a restaurant that is quite stunning.
Looking like an ethereal glass bridge, the 218 seat restaurant two floors up has views on both sides from floor to ceiling windows, views that when the lift doors open induce a gasp. Don’t take the stairs, you’ll miss the wow moment and you’ll be gasping for breath.
Taking cues from the Brutalist architecture of Centre Point, the interiors have a 60s kind of feel, with some Asian touches, and it all feels very swish and grand, it’s a long way from Chinatown, despite being almost within a spring roll throw.
Cute robot waiters roll about as we walk through, I am not sure how they work but I guess you tap your order onto their screen and they trundle off to the kitchen to be loaded up before returning to the table.
We first have a few cocktails, the signature cocktails are Din, Tai and Fung, in the separate bar area, looking out from sugar-pink couches onto the piazza. A Tai – is Citrus-Infused Patrón Silver Tequila, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice, Agave Syrup, Honey – and is a cracking drink with a powerful sharpness that opens up my hunger valves.
This Taiwanese restaurant is famous for its Xiao Long Bao – steaming hot soup dumplings – so once sat down on the other side of the restaurant facing out onto New Oxford Street we order up some honey and vinegar short ribs, very nice but served cold which I wasn’t so keen on, and crispy fried chicken which was excellent, we went for the baos.
Apparently each of their Xiao Long Bao takes 40 minutes of hand preparation, carried out by dedicated Dian Xin, dim sum chefs,
The way to respectfully eat a bao we’re told is to pull it from the steamer, place it in your ceramic spoon and then poke a hole in its side with a chopstick. This allows the soup to flow out and into the spoon and cool slightly. Popping an unpopped bao straight into your mouth can be painful.
Top it with some ginger, lower it into sauce, eat and then drink off the soup in the spoon. Delicious. We eat Pork Bao, Chilli Crab and Pork, and a Mushroom and Truffle, the last being particularly decadent.
Baos are not enough though, so we also get a vegetable Jiao Zi, these are dumplings which with their crescent shape are popular at Chinese Lunar New Year , and classic Prawn and Pork Shao Mai (Dim Sim), all good with the dipping sauce.
Who doesn’t want a wonton? In Cantonese the name means “swallowing a cloud” and they are rather ethereal. We eat pork and prawn wontons with a very spicy sauce, and some made with pork and vegetables. All good.l
Surprisingly, as it’s the least fancy, one of the things we enjoy most is broccoli with garlic. Such a simple thing, but the balance is perfect and the broccoli cooked exactly to keep some bite and freshness.
Very fancy though is their sweet twist on the classic steamed bun, the popular Salted Egg Yolk Custard Lava Bun. Breaking it open, the custard bubbles out aromatically. A very amusing and tasty finale.
Din Tai Fung chain is ranked as one of the world’s Top 10 Best Restaurants by The New York Times, with branches in Singapore, Thailand, UK, Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, UAE, and USA. This new outlet is surely going to be one of their most popular.