As you stroll down busy Camden High Street, past the tattoo and piercing salons, specialist record shops, and quirky arts and crafts boutiques, you don’t really get the sense that a good dim sum meal can be had just around the corner. As you walk into Yum Cha, with its run-down, vaguely Thai decor, very basic wooden tables and chairs, and laminated photos of dumplings plastered on the window, you are even less convinced. But you must persevere because, almost inexplicably, this is one of the better dim sum places in town.
As is so often the case at dim sum restaurants, first to arrive was what would come closest to resembling the desert dish - Baked Mini Egg Tart. They were reasonably good – the pastry was a bit coarse but the filling was smooth and delicious. Turnip Cake with Wind Dried Meat & Shrimp was superb – crisp on the outside (and crucially not burnt, as so many renditions often are), tasty and with a lovely texture on the inside - this was easily one of the best versions in London. Fried Taro Croquette with Chicken Roast Pork & Prawn was also done pretty well, with an exterior that was crisp but not hard, and a hearty interior. Minced Pork Shanghai Siew Long Bao had a wrapper that was slightly too thick, and only a so-so flavour to the meat, but was at least filled with a good amount of soup. It wasn’t the greatest, but was still better than Yauatcha’s. Prawn Cheung Fun was the right level of thickness, had a delightful, silky smooth texture, and was packed full of punchy prawns. Crystal Scallop & Prawn Dumpling also had a good wrapper that was not too thick, and a decent filling.
In a nutshell...
The general quality of dim sum in London, in my opinion, leaves much to be desired. I certainly haven’t discovered any great dim sum venues in the capital (Pearl Liang came very close when it first opened, but whilst still decent, has now dropped considerably below that level). Yum Cha did not prove to be the answer either, but does compare favourably to the level available at some of the better dim sum outlets in town. I would consider it at least the equal of such highly touted places as Phoenix Palace and Imperial China, and superior to Yauatcha and Princess Garden. I personally wouldn’t make a special trip to Yum Cha because it is all the way across town for me, and a number of venues closer serve a comparable (but not superior) standard of dim sum. If Yum Cha was nearer to home, however, say in the same locale as the equally well reviewed but far inferior Dragon Palace, which is just 10 minutes’ walk from my flat, I would be there every weekend.
28 Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8AG
Average Price: £10-£20 (for dim sum)