When expectations of surly, pushy staff (as we’d read on some sites and experienced ourselves in the past) are so spectacularly broken, with the trademark slick, dark, night-sky effect room adorned by a long fish tank along the bar, full (the room, not the fish tank) of efficient, UNpushy young waiters always swift to remove finished dishes, things can only look up.
And they did.
The dim sums were as beautiful and good as they come (we have been to China). We had the regulation scallop shui mai, a steamed vegetable dumpling, a steamed prawn zucchini and cattlefish dumpling and a baked chicken Shanghai dumpling.
In all, the pastry was light, tight, pleasant; in the steamed ones the gentle cooking method only adding to the sense of lightness, while the grilled ones offered crunchiness. In the scallop shuimai, the key is the balance between the scallop and the prawn (paste) flavours, with the gracious visual addition of the tobiko (flying fish roe). Perfect. A similar balance shone in the colourful zucchini specimen.
The sauces accompanying the Shanghai dumpling were a delight, one nutty, the other sharp.
A chicken hot and sour soup
impacted first with the heat assault, then gave way to uncover the delicate sweet, sour and umami feast.
We love vegetables, so we felt compelled to try a Spicy aubergine, sato bean, okra and french bean with peanuts
which was rich, unctuous, varied, vibrant of intensely satisfying colours and flavours. Only but not negligible defect, a piece of inedible fibrous material left in one of the vegetables.
Instead of the regulation crispy duck, we had the crispy duck salad variation
executed with skill, crispiness and moisture both there, and many textures in the vegetables (unfortunately once again including some inedible fibre, tsk tsk).
Yauatcha is at heart a tea house (-cha…), offering a unique selection of fine teas. Instead of wine, drinking which somehow feels silly to us with this type of food, we had an ever so delicate white Silver Needle and a stronger blue High Mountain Fo Shou. We are mentioning the names just to impress, as we’re no tea experts and we have no idea of where these teas stand in the pecking order – but they tasted very good to us. The two pots, at £8 and £7.40, were more than enough for the whole meal.
Yauatcha has the rare virtue of being able to cater for large numbers at a very high level of quality. Except for a couple of slips in the preparations of the vegetables, our lunch today was excellent. True, the conditions were ideal, the room only half full projecting a sense of calm as well as slickness and the large number of staff being able to attend solicitously to every table without effort – no doubt things might get a little messier and less smooth at peak times, yet what we’ve seen witnesses to a very sharp organisation in the kitchen and in the room.
At less than £90 for two including service, this was both one of the best value for money meals in recent times, and an excellent meal by absolute standards.