In a blink of an eye, it’s been 3 weeks since I came back from Hong Kong. I haven’t been out for any Chinese meals. The Chinese in me was yearning for dim sums.
Shanghai Blues boasts Chinese fine-dining. Unlike the more traditional restaurants, SB is divided into smaller rooms designated for tea, private dining and more ‘opulent’ meals. The high ceilings, contrasting vibrant colours and glossy cocktail bar shout contemporary and upmarket.
Tea was offered pot per person, at a minimum price of £3.20. Mister had the Supreme Flower Tea, which was extremely meek, and I opted for the more traditional Jasmine Xiang Pian. Our companions had coke and beer (what?!).
Ha-Gau – Crystal Prawn Dumplings
Would you not agree these look incredibly similar to plastic food samples? These arrived on a mini bamboo steamer, which was even more toy-like. These weren’t bad. The shell was thin yet adequately chewy, with well-greased giant prawns.
However good ha-gau is usually made with crunchy and bouncy prawns, these were crunchy but dense. Either prawns were not left sufficient time to defrost, or these dim sums have been previously frozen. At £4 per portion, I was expecting more.
Yam Croquettes with Mixed Meat
The deep-fried dishes were spot on. The croquettes were filled with a thick layer of mashed taro and a juicy minced centre, all surrounded by the fluffily crispy shell.
Mooli Croissant – Shanghai Crispy Turnip Puff
Definitely on the stingy side; this divides to £2 per piece. Nonetheless beautifully crafted; the ribbons of coating unravelled as I bit into the puff, which was packed with shredded turnip. The filling was mildly sweet and blended with the brittle crust perfectly.
King Prawns & Chinese Chives ‘Cheung Fun’
The cheung fun was delicate and silken, delightfully slippery on the chopsticks. The soy sauce was faintly sweetened and worked well with the cheung fun. Then the stiff prawns crept in. I wouldn’t say the prawns spoilt it, just this could have been better.
Marinated Chicken Feet with Supreme Abalone Sauce
Not the usual steamed chicken feet in black bean and chillies, these were slow-cooked instead. The soft, melting collagen was wrapped in the sauce-stained skin. A bit too watery to my liking, and it could do with more spices to add more complexity to the abalone sauce. It was aright.
Steamed Rice with Chinese Mushrooms, Cantonese Chicken & Chinese Sausage
This failed spectacularly. Benchmark hot rice pot is made with steamed rice cooked on hob, with a thin layer of lightly burnt rice at the bottom, topped with whatever and served with sweet viscous soy sauce. It’s supposed to be heart-warmingly homely.
This soggy pot of rice, obviously boiled from the rice cooker, was hopeless. Chicken pieces, though tender, tasted of nothing; cheap Chinese sausage lacked the unique aroma and the mushrooms weren’t marinated. It didn’t come with any soy sauce either. The kitchen is definitely not from a Cantonese background.
Sampan Congee with Minced Beef
Sampan congee originated from Canton and used to be a specialty of the fisherman families living on boathouses. Although it doesn’t have a strict definition of ingredients, it usually consisted of minced beef mixed with broken vermicelli, bits of squid and fish, peanuts and whatever seafood was left on the boat. Most importantly the congee base should be boiled with fish bones. We found duck in this pot. And various pieces of leftovers from the kitchen. Again I think Shanghai Blues failed on this one.
I think Shanghai Blues has forgone the fundamental common sense for fancy crockery and gimmicks. For example, half of my one-person portion teapot was stuffed with Jasmine tealeaves, which is great for super strong tea lovers, but the bitterness in strong tea does affect our taste buds, especially for milder dishes. On the other hand, the timid flower tea got a double-sized transparent pot?
Dim sum is a challenging feat. It demands precise balance. The deep-fried and baked delicacies were impeccable, and the steamed items were also on the right track, if they can sort the prawns out. As for the more local Cantonese specialities, the kitchen had no idea.
They are currently offering a 50% discount on food for Saturday lunch & all day Sunday. This makes the prices much more believable. Given one orders the right items from the menu, Shanghai Blues could be an alternative should the queue at Royal China piss you off.
193-197 High Holborn