While we have plenty of affordable options for Chinese food in Chinatown, the playing field for higher-end versions of the cuisine is wide open. Enter the Royal China Group. Its original Baker Street branch is an institution, and it has other successful restaurants across the city. This new Chinatown site quietly opened at the tail-end of last year, when London was in the grip of Omicron.
After that rocky start, things seemed to have picked up by my February Wednesday evening visit: the restaurant’s vibrant red dining room, divided up by expensive-looking lotus-and-crane screens and displaying antique Chinese porcelain, was bustling.
We kicked things off with a quarter portion of crispy aromatic roast duck. A glossy ruby-colored fowl glistened under the light on our table and, just from picking up a piece with chopsticks, I could tell how amazingly juicy it was: the glorious dripping oozed out. To accompany, gai lan (Chinese broccoli) covered in crispy garlic bits, which provided a healthy, crunchy counterpoint to the fatty, succulent meat.
Happily, the dessert mochi, liberally smothered with peanut powder, was in a different league.
The mains, however, were not so good. The fried king prawns and vegetables could have been fresher and the fried tapioca bird’s nest they were served in was hard and inedible. I was equally disappointed with the gigantic portion of Fukien egg-fried rice because it tasted like it was boiled and had never seen any stir-fry wok action. Its diced seafood, chicken, carrot and pea sauce was bland and gloopy – a far cry from the rich and colorful dish promised by the picture on the menu.
Happily, the dessert mochi, liberally smothered with peanut powder, was in a different league. I took a bite out of the still-warm sticky ball and enjoyed the ‘Q’ (bouncy, chewy texture in Taiwanese cuisine) and gooey black sesame center. It was spot-on. I wish I hadn’t filled up on the lacklustre mains, so I could have had room for a whole heavenly portion.
Service was lightning-fast, curt and to the point. But that’s what you expect in the heart of Chinatown. As we waited for the bill, I looked over to the big round table next to us and got serious food envy. I eyed up their stir-fried dover sole and the stewed pork belly with preserved cabbage hotpot that filled the dining room with its piquant aroma, and was tempted to pull up a chair to join them. The portions at this place are built for family-style eating and I regret not bringing along more friends to help me make a bigger dent in the gigantic menu.
The vibe A fancy modern red-on-red-on-red dining room.
The food An extensive menu of Cantonese and Sichuan specialities. The roast duck is a must.
The drink Chinese teas, wines, beers and interesting signature cocktails.
Time out tip Bring a big group to divide and conquer and try more of the massive menu.