London has seen a surge in dim sum venues over recent years, and while it still hasn't quite reached the dreamy heights of Asia yet, it's definitely closing the gap.
As someone who's lived and travelled across Asia and who was raised regularly eating dim sum on Saturday afternoons, I've made it my mission to find London's best dim sum.
Today, I'm sharing my opinion of the best dim sum restaurants in London.
1. Din Tai Fung (Centre Point, Covent Garden and Oxford Street)
My love affair with Din Tai Fung began as a child in Taiwan where the restaurant started over 60 years ago. I've been fortunate to visit their restaurants in several other countries including Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Having recently tried their Centre Point location for the first time, I'm pleased to say their London restaurants do not disappoint.
The star of the show at Din Tai Fung is definitely the original Xiao Long Bao, which is a pork dumpling with a hot, rich and flavoursome soup inside. In addition to their original, there's several variants making creative use of ingredients such as mushroom, truffle and chilli crab. Although I do like mixing it up a little, the original Pork Xiao Long Bao is definitely my favourite.
Away from Xiao Long Bao, I also recommend trying their other dumpling dishes including Spicy Pork and Vegetable Wontons, Jiao Zi and Shao Mai, as well as their Pork Chop Egg Fried Rice and Spicy Cucumber.
One of the most memorable parts of the Din Tai Fung experience is being able to watch some of the best dumplings in the world being freshly made by the chefs. Each Xiao Long Bao goes through a 40 minute long process involving six separate hand preparation stations. This experience makes you realise the craftsmanship and care that goes into making every single dumpling and is also a reflection of their quality.
Although Din Tai Fung's Xiao Long Bao and dumplings are, in my opinion the best in London, I sometimes think they miss a trick by not offering a wider range of dim sum options. I do however concede that this may not be so easy while maintaining the exceptional quality of their dumplings.
I prefer Din Tai Fung for special occasions like mid-week birthdays or celebrations as it's on the pricier side and can be hard to get a seat. It's always nice following a meal there, to take a gentle stroll through the Covent Garden area.
2. Phoenix Palace (Marylebone)
If you love a bustling, busy atmosphere with traditional décor, then you will appreciate the Phoenix Palace in Marylebone, situated just a stone's throw away from both Baker Street and Marylebone Stations.
The restaurant is a hive of activity on weekend lunchtimes when it is full of families and friends catching up over a wholesome dim sum meal. The white table cloth, glass turntables for sharing, red decorations, and fish tank all add to a nostalgic vibe which remind me a bit of my grandparent's house. The staff include several old-timers who are for the majority of the time, friendly and attentive.
A good selection of steamed and fried dim sum is available, their BBQ pork buns, BBQ pork puff pastries and Cheung Fun are my personal favourites, but honestly, you can't go wrong with anything here. There's also a good selection of non dim-sum dishes including crispy belly pork, Peking duck and a variety of noodle dishes which I can personally vouch for.
Credit: Phoenix Palace Restaurant
Away from food, it's worth pointing out that the Chinese tea is one of the better ones I've had at a London dim sum house and they are always happy to top up the water without a fuss. When I'm in the mood, I always appreciate the draught beer that is on offer.
I prefer coming here on Saturday and Sunday afternoons especially for family meals as dim sum is available until 4.45pm. It's not uncommon for there to be a queue during the early afternoon, so I would recommend booking in advance if possible.
The close proximity to Regent's Park makes it a great spot to relax or go for a walk post meal.
3. Dim Sum Duck (King's Cross)
Dim Sum Duck is a one-of-a-kind, family-run restaurant that gives off a warm, local, street-corner vibe. As a family run restaurant, the staff are incredibly friendly, and the food is equally delightful.
There is a good selection of steamed and fried dim sum with the vast majority of the dim sum dishes costing less than £5, making it great value-for-money especially compared to other dim sum venues in London.
I recommend trying a variety of their dumplings, steamed pork buns, glutinous rice wrap and Cheung Fun, which all hit the spot! If you have space, they also have a good selection of other Chinese dishes including rice and noodle dishes, vegetables and classics including Mapo tofu.
Dim Sum Duck is a great place for social, laidback dining, and I prefer to go during the weekends when I'm craving a relaxed dim sum.
However, please be aware that they do not take reservations and as a popular spot, there can often be a 15-30 minute queue. As they are open between 12pm to 5pm and 6pm to 10pm, my recommendation is to get there a bit early - at around 11:45am or 5:45pm - to skip the queue.
4. My Neighbours The Dumplings (Clapton and Victoria Park)
My Neighbours The Dumplings are a pair of delicious, family-run dim sum restaurants in East London which fuse dim sum tradition with innovation.
Their dim sum dishes are focused on dumplings and I would strongly recommend trying their delicious Siu Mai dumplings containing pork, prawn and roe as well as Har Gau prawn dumplings. With their handcrafted dumplings, they've done a great job of transforming simple, homely recipes into gourmet delicacies.
Away from dim sum, they also offer some Chinese classics including Mapo tofu and crispy pork belly both which taste great. If you have space, I would recommend trying their smacked cucumber salad.
I often find myself here for casual after-work dining when I'm craving good-value dim sum. They also offer takeaway, which is great for those cosy nights in. They only have a few dishes on the menu, which allows them to focus on creating each item to perfection. I find these restaurants, true, hidden gems of London.
5. Royal China (Marylebone)
Situated conveniently close to Oxford Street are two Royal China restaurants: Royal China and it's more upmarket sister restaurant, Royal China Club.
Royal China is perfect for a pre- or post-shopping meals due to it's proximity to Oxford Street. Its spacious interior, adorned with tablecloth and glass turntables, enhances the dining experience.
While it's slightly pricey, the selection and quality of dim sum at both restaurants are worth every penny especially for Central London.
I highly recommend their prawn dumplings and roast pork buns, along with a prawn fried noodles dish to round off the meal.
After indulging in dim sum, feel free to continue your shopping spree at nearby Selfridges or wander up Marylebone High Street.
Royal China has other restaurants in Harrow on the Hill, Canary Riverside, Fulham, Chinatown and Dubai.
6. Yauatcha (Soho and The City)
Yauatcha is where you go when you want to impress. It's expensive, but the exquisite interior, coupled with the high-quality dim sum, makes it worth it for the big occasion.
Each dish is beautifully crafted, and the restaurant offers a first-class dining experience that takes traditional Cantonese dishes and adds a modern touch. For me, the Venison Puff pastry, soft shell crab, and lobster dumpling are the standout dishes at Yauatcha.
Yauatcha is my top pick for really special occasions, and makes for a great date spot. After your meal, don't forget to grab a drink in Soho for the perfect end to your evening.
7. Golden Dragon (Colindale and Chinatown)
No list of the best dim sum restaurants in London is complete unless it shares at a few in Chinatown. Nestled in the heart of Chinatown and with a second location in Colindale, North London, the Golden Dragon is often buzzing with a mix of locals and tourists.
I often drop by Golden Dragon when I'm hungry and in Soho, making it ideal for a stop before going for a few drinks with friends or watching a theatre performance. You can hardly go wrong with its dumplings and BBQ pork bun dishes.
Though the staff are quite often not the friendliest, Golden Dragon always delivers on the dim sum front with its great selection. When you combine this with the restaurant's convenient location, it's well worth a visit.
Be sure to take a walk around Chinatown before or after your meal to soak up the vibrant atmosphere.
8. Pearl Liang (Paddington)
I've been visiting Pearl Liang for well over 15 years and on a good day its dim sum can be amongst the best in London The main reason why it's not scoring more is its lack of consistency as I'm afraid to say I've had a couple less positive experiences over the years.
Located just off the Little Venice canal and close to Paddington station, Pearl Liang is a wonderful spot for a dim sum meal especially after a leisurely stroll by the canal. I've always felt that the peaceful water feature containing fish by the entrance as well as the stylish interior of the restaurant contribute to a delightful setting.
Pearl Liang's range of dim sum is good and fresh with their prawn dumplings and Cheung fun the must-try dishes. I also find their non dim-sum menu appealing, and can personally vouch for their crispy belly pork and sizzling beef dishes.
The Final Word
And there you have it - my favourite dim sum joints in London.
So whether you're a seasoned dim sum lover or just starting to explore, I hope this list leads you to some new culinary discoveries. From casual eats to more upmarket dining, each place has its own charm, and there's something for everyone in this vibrant city.
Remember, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to dim sum. So feel free to dive in, try a bit of everything, and above all, enjoy the experience. Happy eating!
Stay tuned for the next instalment where I'll be introducing more hidden gems in London and the UK's thriving Asian food scene.
If you are interested in learning more on dim sum why not read my comprehensive guide to dim sum.