Although it’s ubiquitous the world over, Cantonese fare can often be a misconstrued cuisine. Braised fresh crab claw, cloud-soft pumpkin dumplings and sautéed fish maw are just a few of the many varied and eclectic Cantonese gastronomic goods rarely known to the wider public. Refined and profound in taste, such dishes are a stark contrast to the overly-sweet and sticky luminescent offerings that are often found at the nearby takeaway.
However, thanks to the opening of several new fine-dining Chinese eateries in London, this corner of the world is slowly being given a schooling in Oriental taste. The most recent, and perhaps the finest, restaurant to have opened it’s doors in the capital is Duddell’s – the UK-based branch of a Hong Kong restaurant which holds a Michelin star for its formidable cooking and dim sum menu.
Though the London outpost is yet to open officially (it’s currently in a soft-opening phase), it’s attracted attention from gourmands and critics far and wide, not only because its older sibling has earned legendary status amongst Hongkongers, but also due to the fact it’s helmed by Daren Liew, a trailblazing cook who’s previously worked as the executive sous of the Hakkassan group. So, for customers willing to put their Visa through its paces, they’ll be safe in the knowledge that the man overseeing the kitchen has Cantonese cooking credentials by the spades.
The ambience is…
Set in the palatial and deconsecrated St. Thomas Church in London Bridge, Duddell’s has an airy, open environment in which guests can simply sit down, dine and devour the visual treats that the surroundings offer.
Responsible for the interior design is Michaelis Boyd, the brain behind Soho Farmhouse’s aesthetic. An open dim sum kitchen, golden-trimmed bar, mezzanine, vast brass chandeliers and a galleried section have all been installed inside the restaurant, while a behemoth of a wooden alter stands on one side of the hall; such elements fuse together beautifully and create a high-rolling visual symphony that makes dining here as pleasing on the eyes as it is on the palate.
In the next few months, expect Duddell’s, like the Hong Kong original, to become a multifunctional venue that’ll exhibit cultural events and exhibitions in an attempt to become a destination location for art and food cognoscenti alike.
“Entering Duddell’s feels like being welcomed into the home of a great art collector – one that also happens to have an in-house two Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant, a lush 2,000 square foot Garden Terrace, and sophisticated salon with artisanal cocktails and vintage champagne,” say the founders of the original.
If all goes to plan, expect St. Thomas Church to be welcoming in a new congregation any time soon.
“Wagyu beef in crispy cup” – plated on a picturesque leaf-like collection of branches, each of the six crisp pastry cups is filled with tender, beautifully sizzled bits of wagyu beef.
“Cantonese dim sum symphony” – featured on the à la carte — and thus available on evenings — the symphony features thin, translucent dumplings filled with a selection of seafood: in the case of the one designed as a goldfish compete with two eyes, it’s prawn. In others reside king crab and scallop. Each bite-size piece is technically excellent – soft yet sturdy with a clean and clear taste. The presentation – as you’d expect from its title – is also spectacular. We’d advise having breaks between each dumpling, though, as they can, if eaten successfully, taste akin to one another.
“Honey glazed char siu with soy beans” – sweet, chewy and well-caramelised, each slice of char siu slips seamlessly into the mouth and has you longing for another bite of Cantonese goodness.
“Duddell’s supreme lobster noodle” – this culinary tour de force is lauded on the menu as being “the pinnacle of Chinese fine dining”, and indeed it lives up to expectations. Sourced from the waters of Canada, the lobster is braised with golden “supreme stock” for four hours before being stir-fired with ginger, spring onion and lily bulb. Once plated, it arrives at the table as a generous sharing plate. The vivid scarlet of the shell flags its renowned status on the menu, as does the deep and rich broth that’s woven with noodles. The meat, once de-shelled, is plump and juicy; the string-thing noodles, which are bouncy yet silk-soft, are also accentuated by the umami-tastic broth. Note that if you don’t mind getting your fingers a bit messy, then this dish won’t trouble you; for those who prefer to keep their mittens clean, perhaps avoid.
Visit Duddell’s at 9a St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY
Need somewhere else to go in London? Check out our latest review of Hawksmoor, Knightsbridge