Celebrating Chinese New Year has become a highlight of the London calendar for many years now. From extravagant street parties to state of the art shows and culinary masterpieces, restaurants and bars from Chinatown to Cheam pull out all the stops at the end of each January to welcome in a new year.
To join in the fun this year my husband and I decided to dump the
parasites kids and take off into town for a Dim Sum dinner, just the two of us. We met under a flickering street lamp on the corner of Carnaby Street and headed to Dim Sum restaurant Ping Pong in Great Marlborough Street for some stir fried, woktastic treats.
As we were shown to our table we could smell the sweet aroma of soy and honey drifting up the stairway from the kitchen below. The restaurant interior is stylish and clean, with a choice of communal benches or separate tables depending on how sociable you’re feeling. We were keen to enjoy our date night so we picked a cosy table in the corner for our catch up without the kids.
Being Chinese New Year there was a whole menu of specials to choose from to celebrate. So having quickly ordered our cocktails – a Kinky Martini made from muddled raspberries and spicy vanilla shaken with 1800 Tequila, lychee juice and fresh lime, and a Tonka Rob Roy concoction of Jonny Walker, red vermouth and caramel liqueur mixed with plum wine and tonka bitter – we perused both the regular and the the seasonal menus.
I was immediately drawn to the Chinese Arancini rice balls stuffed with shitake and black mushrooms and served with a mango sauce, and the aubergine and barley dumplings. My husband joined me on the vegetarian side to share a tofu and black bean rice pot and some long stemmed broccoli, but also ordered the seasonal smoked sriracha wings, crispy prawn balls and chicken and cashew dumplings. At the last minute we decided to add a portion of potato and edamame cakes to our order, and we weren’t disappointed.
For anyone new to Ping Pong, the method of ordering is by ticking boxes on a paper menu. It’s recommended you order around four or five dishes each, and they are then brought out as soon as they are ready, so served at intervals, a Chinese type of tapas. The no-fuss method should ensure there are no mix ups when ordering, and you can keep ticking boxes if you want to add to your order half way through.
As our food began to appear we were wowed by dish after dish of exciting and flavoursome food combinations. The dishes typically cost between £4-£6 each and are generous in size. We were delighted with all of our choices, particularly favouring the arancini, the chicken dumplings, and the steamed to perfection broccoli with its delightful sesame dipping sauce. So satisfied were we that after a breather and another cocktail – this time a tangy lemongrass and lime mixed with Finlandia vodka, and a good old fashioned Old Fashioned, we decided we may as well tackle a dessert!
Having not had our dishes yet cleared, or seen the friendly waitress who served us in quite a while, we attracted the attention of another server. We asked if we could order desserts and with a slight “humph” he walked off. After about ten minutes of waiting for him to return we asked another lady, who said she would send someone. Five minutes after that we managed to order the seasonal special cherry mascarpone cake and a portion of sorbet. Sadly, as our appetites dwindled, so did the atmosphere and service. After another fifteen minutes our desserts finally arrived, and proved as flat as our moods. The cherry cake looked incredible, but was practically tasteless, and the one scoop of blackcurrant sorbet was refreshing but distinctly average. Having enjoyed every element of the evening up until now it seemed a shame to end on such a dismal note. We decided to order a couple more drinks to boost our morale, but after ten minutes of trying to attract somebody’s attention we just decided to settle up and leave.
Ping Pong offers delicious and inventive food at very reasonable prices. The atmosphere when full is buzzing and the scene is stylish. Sady the service does not match the standard of its surroundings. Maybe we caught them at a bad time – when we arrived the restaurant was practically empty but by the time we left it was bustling -or maybe we just caught them as one shift ended and another began, and got lost in the middle. Whatever the reason we felt a lot less compelled to return when we left than we had after finishing our main courses. However, there are branches all across London so we will likely try another out and hope that the food maintains its excellent standard, while waiting staff exceed our current expectations.
- Ping Pong Dim Sum has branches across London, as well as in both Westfield shopping malls. For menus and locations, see www.pingpongdimsum.com