It takes a certain element of chutzpah to demarcate a particular area in the City an ‘eating and drinking quarter’, but the powers that be have done that with a hitherto unexceptional area of space adjoining Liverpool Street station. This is now grandly named Broadgate Circle, and there can be no denying that it is, indeed, circular in its design, nor that many top-end restaurants are queuing up to be part of this particular jamboree. Yet the most impressive of these by far is the new Yauatcha; the first offering of this restaurant outside its home in Soho, and, for my money, even better.
Yauatcha rose to prominence for two particular reasons (or three, if you count the minimalist décor, complete with stark neon blue). The first are some of the best dim sum in London, which have been known to reduce otherwise picky gluttons to a state of near-silent bliss, a moment of contemplation only occasionally interspersed with a Bunter-esque ‘I say you fellows, this is good tuck!’ The second are cocktails that make a habit of only using the best ingredients in the most interesting of ways, with a moreish quality that makes it far too easy to turn a ‘quick bite and a drink’ into an all-evening session that ends with the diner hailing a taxi home in a state of advanced repletion.
Boothby and I did not reach that nirvana on the occasion that we visited, but we certainly left Yauatcha II in an exceptionally content mood. The dim sum remains amongst London’s finest; the only serious competition comes from its near neighbour and cousin HKK, and that offers an atmosphere of serious formality alien to the more civilised vibe of Yauatcha. ‘Do you want a table or would you rather sit at the bar?’ was one of the first questions that greeted us. Often, this would be a grudging and scarcely veiled request to get the journalists out of the way, out of sight and out of mind; here, it was made in the spirit of genuine friendliness and helpfulness.
Whatever you order is excellent. Char sui buns, scallop shui mai, venison puffs and – oh be still my beating heart – the most extraordinary prawn and bean cheung fun, which puts the fun back into dining, are small dishes of the kind that any restaurant would be in awe of. Accompanied by an exceptional ‘early martini’ – a kind of deconstructed espresso martini, and designed as an aperitif rather than a digestif – this represents the sort of food that deserves a Michelin star, at least. It must be regarded as an omission of this superb establishment that it doesn’t have one. But, as we continue through the staples of quarter of crispy duck, rib eye with black bean sauce and magnificent egg fried rice, we don’t mourn the loss too harshly. In fact, the only thing that we’re not blown away by is the pak choi, which tastes oddly bland compared to some of the other examples we’ve tasted. Still, not worth mourning, given the brilliance of everything else.
Normally, dessert in a Chinese restaurant is something to be observed, rather than enjoyed, but nods to less adventurous palettes results in a couple of delights, the hazelnut gianduja, essentially a very posh chocolate mousse, and the pecan coffee delice. An espresso martini appears; we are powerless to say no, such is the charm that this particular establishment has exerted over us. And then, two hours later, we say our farewells, and leave, blinking, into Broadgate Circle.
‘Well, I enjoyed that, somewhat’, said Boothby.
I can’t say that I disagreed.
For more information about Yauatcha, including their new autumn collection, details of other international restaurants and even their ‘Guide to Tea’, visit www.yauatcha.com.