Over a decade ago (13 years to be exact), the genius that is Alan Yau, changed the Asian dining scene. Till then, to get a true taste of the far east you had to actually go there, or then go to a little place in China Town which often proved difficult as a vegetarian. Many of the traditional places see nothing wrong with a fish or chicken stock in a ‘vegetarian dish’. Anyways, back to Mr. Yau and the introduction of Yauatcha. Finally, a place to get a huge selection of dim sum paired with incredible cocktails. No surprise then that it only took one year to gain a Michelin star and it has retained it ever since. Yes, it has been sold on since, but the food is just as good. I have been so many times that I can’t write about one specific visit but instead, what follows is a selection of the greatest hits.
Let’s start with the drink. Yes, the drinks menu is extensive and full of new and exotic cocktails, a huge number of teas, sakes and also some mocktails, but I will save you the trouble of having to Google what they all mean. What you want, is the Hakka: Belvedere vodka, Akashi-tai sake, lychee juice, lime, coconut and passion fruit. It is the perfect cocktail in my eyes, goes down smooth but you can taste the alcohol, enough to know it is a proper adult drink. For those of you who don’t drink, just ask for it without the alcohol.
Onto the dim sum, and let’s be honest, it’s the real reason one goes to Yauatcha. The easiest way to order as a vegetarian is to order absolutely everything with a little v next to it. If you aren’t hungry enough to order everything (shame on you), then you should definitely try out the following:
- Edamame truffle dumping- in my humble opinion they are the best thing on the menu. The truffle isn’t over powering and is balanced so well with the edamame
- Black pepper vegetarian chicken dumpling- someone very kindly described this as a bogey on my Instagram page, don’t worry though, it’s simply magnificent
- Three style mushroom cheung fun- three tubes of doughy goodness stuffed full of mushrooms and then topped tableside with some light soy sauce (it makes for a great boomerang).
- Mushroom spring roll with black truffle- you may start to notice a trend with the truffle. A Chinese restaurant that serves a spring roll that isn’t dripping in oil and greasy beyond belief, need I say more?
All of the dim sum barring the cheung fun come in portions of three, makes things a little awkward if you’re still in the early stages of dating and secretly want that last one but you insist the other person eats it. The solution to this is to just order plenty of portions and that way you’re both happy. To put things into context, the last time I went in a group of 6 and we got 25 portions of dim sum.
If after this, you still have room for mains, hats off to you. The vegetables section of the menu gives you a few choices including a fantastic claypot but I suggest you go for the fried vegetarian duck. Sweet, sticky and just a kick of spice, this really is the second best mock meat dish you’ll find in London, nobody can beat the black pepper mock chicken at Hakksan (incidentally also an ex Yau venture). Rice or noodles to go with it are entirely personal preference, for me it has to be the vegetarian fried rice.
The pâtissiers at Yauatcha are incredibly talented. They produce Instagram worthy desserts that are almost too good looking to eat, but of course, you’re going to devour everything. A word of warning: a lot of the desserts contain gelatin but as long as you tell your waiter you’re vegetarian at the start of your meal, they will point this out to you when you order. Order the macarons and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re in a Parisian pastry shop, they are that good. Either order your favourites such as salted caramel or allow your waiter to pick out a selection for you.
And so, we come to the conclusion, much like your meal will after exactly two hours where you will be politely asked to leave. I appreciate it is a popular dining destination and they want to turn the tables over as quickly as possible, but nothing kills the mood of the meal quicker than the manager coming over to tell you that dessert won’t be possible because you have exceeded your time limit. If you come thinking you’ll relax and enjoy a drink whilst pondering over how many portions of dim sum to order, I strongly advise you come at an off-peak time or then be ready to eat your main course quick time. Whatever you do, don’t show up late! This aside, I struggle to find fault, the service is slick, the prices fair and the food consistent. I am more than happy to try any alternatives anyone may have but until then, Yauatcha is my favourite dim sum restaurant in London.