It was the best prawn thing I’d ever eaten. Considering how many small pink bottom-feeders have made their way back to the sea via my digestive tract, that’s quite an accolade. Imagine a big, fat chicken drumstick, and then make it out of tightly-packed, succulent minced prawn. Bread the thing and dunk it in sesame seeds before deep-frying, and you get a beast that leaves the flimsy slices you find at most Chinese restaurants floundering away in the Great Bay of Mediocrity.
Safe to say, all other prawn toast is ruined for me from now on.
We were in Michelin-starred Yauatcha on the recommendation of my workmate Brad. I’m not entirely sure why I followed up on it so eagerly as the last place he recommended to me – a Mexican restaurant on Villiers Street – turned out to be total balls, but he said it was better than Hakkasan and outrageous claims like that need to be given full and thorough investigation. Following Friday night’s skirmish, I actually think he may be right.
The unholy-delicious prawn toast (£8.90) had been preceded by a whole procession of goodies that had arrived – and been subsequently demolished – in dribs and drabs. Yauatcha is known for its dim sum, which is one of my favourite kinds of Asian cuisine. You can mix and match, swap, share and be a little more adventurous with your selection. Happily, it’s also the most cost-effective way to eat; there are some larger ‘main’ size courses on the menu, but why spend £30 on just one dish when you could have four or five platters of delicious dim sum instead? (Or, indeed, three and a bit portions of sesame prawn toast?)
Seafood is certainly a strong suit; the Scallop Shui Mai (£8.20) was so thick and meaty that the hapless creatures that provided the key ingredient must have been rising stars in the All-Shellfish Underwater Rugby League.
Slightly less successful – but only in comparison – were the Spicy Pork Szechuan Wontons (£4.90), which came as little gobs of stuffed pastry in a peanut sauce. They were a smidge on the greasy side for me, especially compared with the dreamy texture of the scallops, and I probably wouldn’t order them again.
We also ordered the Roasted Duck Pumpkin Puff with Pine Nut (£5.80) on the strength of its venison counterpart at Hakkasan (also available at Yauatcha for £5.20). It was probably the best-looking dish we had, each piece an edible miniature of Cinderella’s pumpkin coach, but the deep fried pastry overwhelmed the flavours within. The venison version is actually baked and packs a bit more of a punch, flavour-wise, so next time I’ll probably plump for that puff instead.
After the Jasmine Tea Smoked Ribs (£13.90) – which we ordered on a whim after seeing them arrive at the table next door, despite strict instructions from Brad not to deviate from the dim sum menu – we decided we were still hungry and ordered another two dishes. The ribs were lean, tender and delicately smoky, and I immediately wanted more, but in the spirit of adventure we opted for the Crispy Duck Roll (£7.50) – much duckier than the puff – and the Fried Chilli Squid with Oatmeal and Curry Leaf (£11.20).
I’ve always dismissed oatmeal as the chief troublemaker in really shit biscuits, but on the squid, which came in huge, lightly battered hunks, it was light, flaky and uncharacteristically flavoursome. Sorry, oatmeal, I was wrong about you. I hope we can be friends.
(Friends that MERCILESSLY DEVOUR one another.)
Hannah is a pudding person, so we ordered the Chocolate Pebble (£5.90) to share. (I say ‘share’. I had one small, perfect mouthful and then another glass of wine while Hannah polished it off.) It was more a cobblestone than a pebble, made of dense, fudgey brownie, and set in a seamless coating of smooth, shiny dark chocolate.
Overall, Friday was one of the best dinners I’ve had in a long time, and, at £110 for two including service, not outrageously priced (it was nearly Hannah’s birthday and also the weekend, so there was much to celebrate). We were pretty restrained on the drinks, admittedly, ordering just two (excellent) cocktails and one glass of wine between us, though it’s easy in places like this for drinks bills to get horribly out of hand. Food-wise though, you’ll be hard pushed to find better value for such marvellous quality. Well bloody done, Brad.
Yauatcha Soho, 15-17 Broadwick St, London, W1F 0D
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.