Dim Sum and Taiwanese steamed Bao are definitely the Chinese food à la mode. I can’t keep up with the number of places that specialise on these tasty little morsels in London.
Ping Pong is a dim sum restaurant chain which has been around for a few years and seems to excel on a brand that’s a little slicker than the frills-free dumpling joints you get squashed into Soho’s little lanes. And last time I dropped in for a meal at Ping Pong Southbank, I was shocked at how many people were queuing for a table. As we waited for our table armed with a pager in the cocktail bar upstairs, it turned out that we waited a little longer than promised. But I was bowled over by how the staff dealt with it. Incredibly apologetic, they supplied us with complimentary cocktails and desserts to make up for it. Aside from the fantastic food, this excellent customer service has stayed with me ever since.
The recent Wednesday evening we visited Ping Pong on Great Marlborough Street in Soho wasn’t quite so jam packed. We were off to see Scotch & Soda on the Southbank so had booked in early for a pre-show bite to eat. Which probably explains why there was a much more relaxed vibe.
The Ping Pong on Great Marlborough Street is particularly nice. Aside from their signature dark interiors and low lighting, this one has a mezzanine level where light floods in from a huge two-storey window. It also looks onto the big round tables where people dine below. Had we not had a show to shoot off too, I could see myself whiling away many hours here over cocktails.
We pulled up a stool to sit at this sweeping semi-circular balcony and ordered an array of dim sum.
The choice at Ping Pong is fantastic. From soups and salads, spring rolls and chicken pieces to dozens of dumplings, you really are spoilt for choice.
And if there’s one thing I enjoy about dim sum at Ping Pong, it’s the long discussion you have about what you’re going to have. I strangely take pleasure in the process of pencilling in the ticky boxes yourself. We opted for some lemon verbena char sui pork spring rolls with spicy mango sauce, beef gyoza dumplings and roast pork puffs. We then ordered the smoked duck bao from their seasonal specials menu.
While the duck bao were pillowy soft, the duck slices themselves weren’t particularly noteworthy. If they’d been a little more tender and juicy or in fact tender pulled duck pieces, I think we’d have been onto a winner. That said, when you have a texture and flavour combination of sweet Hoi Sin sauce, a smokey meat, and crunchy lettuce, cucumber, carrot and mooli (daikon) pieces, it still manages to hit those comfort-food notes.
The pork puffs, we felt, could have had a better meat to pastry ratio and the char sui spring rolls could have been a bit softer. However, we can’t fault them on the flavour and presentation here. The beef gyoza were comfortingly squidgy and meaty and the steamed long stem broccoli in a soybean sauce was spot on too.
Drinks-wise, Ping Pong is known for its delicious cocktails and under recommendation, I enjoyed a refreshing hibiscus spritz. I always like to start the evening with something sparkly and this hit the spot with a prosecco and St Germain elderflower mix, with blackcurrant and homemade hibiscus soda. It didn’t taste alcoholic at all, but was really lovely and it was presented beautifully, with the soda in a separate container, and a gorgeous hibiscus flower in the bottom of the glass.
As we didn’t have time for dessert, I couldn’t squeeze in a dessert sadly (although if we had, the mango pudding sounded rather scrummy), so I snuck in a second cheeky tipple – the ‘Lychee and roses’ which is basically a lychee martini with a rose petal on top. I do have a penchant for lychee martinis and this one was excellent. Mr C had a couple of beers (tsingtao and asahi) and we then hot-footed it down to the Southbank. By then, the restaurant was filling up with mid-week crowds.
The bar is being raised increasingly higher when it comes to authentic and high quality dim sum in London. If you really want the authentic stuff, I certainly know one or two more off-the-grid joints where the people there care more about the food than the aesthetic.
But if you want the frills, the oh so fancy cocktails and buzzy vibe, Ping Pong is a pleasing place to spend any night of the week.
And the staff? They’re still make that great impression that makes you want to return.
Until next time x
Thank you to Ping Pong for hosting Oh So London as part of this review meal. All views expressed here are my own. To find out more about Ping Pong and to book a table, visit Pingpongdimsum.com.
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