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Restaurant Review: Yauatcha City

Yauatcha City
Broadgate Circle, London, EC2M 2QS
Cuisine: Chinese
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Helen Hokin: A night at Yauatcha City is like dining next to a DVF catwalk while being served by a private butler who turns his hand to nutrition and botany at will.
 
It’s the hottest, most humid night of the year and it's a Friday so imagine Broadgate Circle... it's jumping with well-heeled City types sweating it out to live music now that work’s out till Monday. It’s not my patch and I’m a little disorientated wandering through the muggy crowd of suited Friday night revellers looking for Yauatcha City. It doesn’t take long, from the middle of the circle you only have to look up to spot the restaurant’s familiar black and white logo emblazoned all around the upper level following the interior curves of the building with its gleaming, wrap-around windows overlooking the public space below.
 
The main entrance is reached via an exterior staircase, past the adjacent Yauatcha patisserie where the bijoux confections are displayed as prettily as jewels in a Cartier shop window.
 
Inside the chic restaurant the waitresses swish by looking elegant in sumptuous plum-coloured shift dresses designed by Diane Von Furstenberg. The signature ruche flatteringly cynches the waist –  I make a note to myself.
 
As mentioned, it is a sweltering evening; I’ve just battled the central line all the way from Shepherd's Bush, in rush hour, and now my way through the thronging masses in the courtyard below, so it follows that I should want the longest, coldest cocktail on the list.
 
The Lulu is served in a tall glass, tinkling with ice cubes and looking all lemony-limey cold. A vodka base is rendered a little sour with lemongrass and lime and then sweet with fresh lychee juice which is all mixed up with a dash of aromatic Oolong tea. Calming and cooling, my temperature comes down, my blood sugars soar - it opens the appetite beautifully. 
 
I ask our server James to pick out a selection of dim sum on our behalf – well he knows the menu better than we do.  And so begins a beautiful, if fleeting relationship; a one-night stand, if you will. I won't forget my night with James for some time to come; he made me feel sooo taken care of – in a way I haven’t been (in the context of a restaurant, obviously) in a long, long time.
 
James turns out to be something akin to a personal butler and really, my only issue with him is that I noticed him on more than one occasion, cheating on me, with other diners, overtly offering the same personal service and TLC as he extended to me.
 
Our man runs his eye down the dim sum list: “You want something steamed, something crispy and something crunchy,” he asserts. And who am I to argue.  The steamed offering are three plump, king crab dumplings, packed with sweet crab meat still piping hot in their translucent rice pastry, while the crispy ones are a trio of delicate, deep-fried rolls packed with juicy, lean duck meat. But when it comes to the crunch we’re blown away by the Cheung fun: tofu and fragrant black truffle silthers neatly rolled inside a shell of crunchy, fried bean curd skin and then again in a layer of soft steamed rice pastry. James wafts a little jar of soy sauce under our noses: “Light and herbal,” he says as he pours it around and then over the Cheung fun. I’m not exaggerating, we’re in raptures over it.
 
Our main courses are the crispy sweet and sour sea bass for me. A perfectly executed and surprisingly large plate that I end up sharing with my pal. His dish, stir-fried scallops with lotus root is a whole other story. We get the lotus root, we’ve seen it before with its thickly sliced cylinders of crisp, crunchy root. It’s the rest of the plant we can’t identify and before we know it, here comes James again armed with a notepad, sketching out a whole lotus plant: root, stem, flower and all to show us which botanical bits in our dish are from where. The mealy seeds, that remind me so much of chickpeas, add earthy depth to the dish, and the pulpy, pithy slithers are milky, light and fragrant and not a million miles from the taste and texture of artichoke hearts; a whole meal in one plant. And now our man is explaining what we’re eating and why it’s good for us: “Good for the skin - boosts collagen,” he explains while stirring our sharing bowl of egg-white fried rice and asparagus before doling out little heaps into our side bowls. Our butler turned botanist is now mother.
 
Because I’m an adventurous soul, I’m drawn to the sections of the wine list titled ‘New Friends’ and ‘Lucky Friends’ and go for a white Pinot from, wait... Surrey.  It’s light, lively and grassy and a good pair for the gentle lotus root and scallop stir-fry. But for my sweet and sour sea bass, not so much - the punchy sauce demands something much more robust. But I’m glad of the chance to try it - I’ve never had a white Pinot from Surrey or anywhere else come to think of it.
 
The Yauatcha patisserie next door furnishes the dessert menu and having seen that window display on the way in I’ve spent most of the meal thinking about it. Call it a woman’s prerogative.
 
I love that so many of the desserts are made from milk, not dark chocolate. such as my milk chocolate and toasted rice cake  all creamy, crunchy and topped with toasted hazelnuts finished opulently in twinkly bits of gold-leaf. It comes with a glass of Roas Franz from Alto Adige, rich with sweet and sour notes of plumb.  
 
In sum, a night at Yauatcha City is like dining next to a DVF catwalk while being served by a private butler who turns his hand to nutrition and botany at will.
 
And if there's an award for restaurant FOH of the year, then I'd like to nominate James.
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