You lose some. You dim sum. Sincere apologies – I just couldn’t help myself. Now that is out of my system, normal service is resumed…
Dim sum is the kind of food that fits in any occasion. Hungover and exhausted? Better hit Chinatown for a Sunday feast. Celebrating your birthday with friends? A table ram-packed with dim sum gets any party going. Unsure what to cook for a quick midweek dinner? Stop in to your local Chinese supermarket and raid the freezers for some shumai. The list goes on.
The problem is, we’ve seen most of it before. Har gow is a consistent favourite and char siu buns never disappoint, but when you’re looking for something a little bit out of the box, it’s hard to know where to turn in the maze of dim sum joints dotted around London.
Step forward Fu Manchu, Clapham’s new dim sum restaurant and “social experience” to upgrade its existing bar scene. Named after the infamous 1930’s fictional character, Fu Manchu is an Edwardian/Opium den themed restaurant, cocktail bar and nightclub serving authentic homemade dim sum alongside sublime and tortuous cocktails.
Entering the restaurant around 7pm on a Thursday, the first impression is the diners are severely lacking. In fact, we’re the only ones in the whole place. Perhaps others know what we didn’t – Fu Manchu comes alive later on. First thing we learned – dim sum and cocktails are better after eight.
Service was impeccable though. An incredibly smiley, friendly waitress brought us cocktails bigger than our heads and made up of all the good stuff, like chilli, mango and rum. The waitress laughed and made us feel right at home, despite a barrage of servers and just the two of us. One might normally feel intimated by this ratio, but thanks to ‘ole smiley waitress, we just laughed it off and got stuck into the menu.
What makes Fu Manchu stand out is the uniqueness of the menu. Kimchee and mushroom fried dumplings were stringent with that famous pickle punch and the wrapper was thin and crispy. Monkfish and lime in crystal paper was a very welcome fish change. Tasting of the sweet sea and with huge chunks of monkfish, this was as good as any dim sum you’ll ever eat.
The variations on the classics didn’t stop there. We sampled everything from lobster, to beef and pumpkin, to even spiced mutton – each more interesting than the last. The whole thing leaves you thinking – why can’t all places be as creative?
Dessert didn’t let the side down either. Mango pudding with yoghurt ginger ice cream (as recommended to us enthusiastically by our best waitress friend) was a triumph. A set pudding that tasted like paradise and slipped down like silk, this is Fu Manchu’s tour de force.
The quietness of the evening meant that, despite us asking to have our dishes spaced out, they were brought to us in extreme quick succession. We had finished eating everything in under an hour – not ideal when trying to make an evening of it. However, more importantly, the food was something special and the cocktails kept flowing late into the evening (when more diners thankfully arrived).
Fu Manchu has uncovered another perfect dim sum occasion – the one where you really want dim sum, but you really want it with a twist. The answer? Go to Fu Manchu and order dim sum that will fill you up, make you smile and perhaps boggle your mind a bit along the way. Just make sure you go after 8pm.