It’s Chinese New Year, in case you hadn’t noticed, and Ping Pong is serving up some special dishes and a cocktail. Nick puts on his dragon outfit and roars in

It often seems that Ping Pong has been around forever, although in fact it began on Southbank back in 2005. That’s still a long time ago though and few restaurants last that long in London, so Ping Pong must be doing something right.

The mini chain suffered a few bumps and knockbacks during the pandemic, just like most other restaurants, but has recovered well with six locations running across London.

The premise was, and still is, simple. Dim Sum and lots of them, served in a modern environment more congenial than the often intimidating restaurants of Chinatown,  places where you can feel out of place if you’re not a dim sum expert and are not used to the rather brusque attitude of Chinese staff when you dare to dawdle when choosing.

The Soho Ping Pong is just behind M&S on Oxford Street, a steamed bun’s throw from Oxford Circus. With lots of seating and fair prices, it’s somewhere to know when you need feeding of an evening, or indeed from lunchtime onwards.

Tables for groups, stools at a bar for singletons. All are welcome in its dark, cosy embrace.

It uses the ‘tick a box’ system for ordering, which is much less stressful for diners and staff alike, especially when a large group comes in. Small symbols indicate spiciness, vegan, gluten free and halal etc. A range of set menus makes it even easier, if you want.

We want to try the New Year Specials: Crispy Dragon Balls,  Aubergine Oriental Salad – and a Giant Soup dumpling. We also order up two special Dragon Punches –  VIVIR Tequila mixed with lychee sake, lychee juice and homemade agave chilli syrup, served with chia seeds and lime, garnished with dragon fruit crisps.

These come first and certainly breathe some fire into us. We’re sat at one of the bench/stool combinations. Another one of these punches might see us falling off our stools. Very nice, very easy drinking.

So then we eat the Dragon Balls. We wonder if perhaps they were intended to be called Dragon’s Balls, but someone decided that might be too much? Someone didn’t have the cojones, in fact?

Anyway, they’re great. Super crispy shredded pastry wrapped around a chunky king prawn with some spicy mango sauce on the side. We drizzle this on, it’s quite thin but the sweetness is a good foil to the ball.

It’s a bit of a one bite dish, there are three balls per serving. We could eat a lot more of these, but content ourselves with chasing all the crispy bits around and making sure that none escape.

S isn’t looking forward to aubergine and I know what he means, it can be oily and disappointing, but this Aubergine Oriental Salad – aubergine slices marinated in sauce, dusted with roasted sesame seeds, green onion and chilli, is really, really good. Somehow the aubergine is cooked and yet still firm and dry. I eat them all, and even the big slice of chilli,  which was a mistake as I am soon breathing fire better than any dragon

Another Dragon special is a Giant Soup Dumpling. This is so large it takes fifteen minutes to assemble and so it’s best to order it even before you begin to separate your chopsticks.

Soup dumplings can be very dangerous things when you eat one whole in one bite and realise it’s full of scalding hot soup and it’s far too late to do anything about it.  All you can do is make monkey noises as you gasp for air to cool it down.

This porky lad is far too big for that, so we drizzle over the supplied sesame soy sauce and eat it with a mixture of chopsticks to get the solid, and a spoon to catch the soup as it gushes out. It’s a rich pork filling and the wheat flour pastry is smooth and filling. Nice dumpling.

Something sweet comes as anther Year of The Dragon special – Green Tea and Mascarpone Dorayaki – fluffy pancakes with a green tea, red bean and mascarpone cream filling with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I forget to take a photo, but it’s a very luscious end, I love green tea used this way as it’s a very unique flavour.

We’re in and then we’re out, back to the office feeling just right for the amount we ate at a lunchtime

Ping Pong is a great place for a quick bite and fun feast. It’s also kid friendly and kids seem to love it from what I saw, a good choice if you’re in town with the family.

These new additions to the Ping POngmenu are well worth checking out. They’ll be on until Monday 5 March.