Ask for a mezzanine table to fully enjoy the beauty of the soaring double height room and the extraordinary chandeliers. The wood panelling, altar and huge arched stained glass windows remain, while a green tiled and brass shelved open dim sum kitchen recreates the retro feel of a 1960s Hong Kong tea restaurant. Designers are Michaelis Boyd of Soho Farmhouse fame.
Reading the long menu, especially the chef's recommendations, so many dishes stand out that we dearly want to return to try many more. Here, crispy salted chicken is made with Bresse chicken and, we're warned, requires considerable dexterity in the eating as the bones are left in. The Peking duck is enticing: glazed in deep caramel and served at the table, alongside a huge range of accompanying condiments including fennel salt and aged mandarin, besides the obligatory pancakes. There's a spectacular sounding lobster noodle dish too with lily bulb, seaweed, ginger and spring onion. Though full marks to the slick and solicitous waiting staff – knowing we were dining with a pescatarian – they informed us that the supreme broth the lobster is braised in is made with a rather wondrous sounding mix involving parma ham, dried scallop and prawn ... so it is earmarked for another visit.
Start with an Oriental slanted cocktail such as St Thomas' Antidote: made with gin, Cointreau, Chinese 5 spice (in a nod to the Operating Theatre Museum that shares the site) and egg white. There are five interesting sounding mocktails and a good range of teas for dry January observers.
Dim sum are an absolute must and served traditionally at lunchtime. Choose from the long list presented on a pad at the table to tick and be sure to include the luscious Iberico Char Siu Cheung Lu in pleasingly slithery dough. We noted how intricately the har gau steamed dumplings are pleated, the mark of a refined kitchen. All the dim sum are exceptionally succulent and generously filled with subtle spicing. For the ultimate seafood selection, order the a la carte symphony collection, available at dinner too. This is truly a work of art and among the best ever tasted: a jade leaf shaped crab, a goldfish shaped and coloured lobster and prawn dumpling complete with beady caviar eye and an exquisitely delicate scallop and prawn dumpling. Extravagant and showy, yes, a delight and Instagram hit, definitely.
The menu is further divided into appetisers, soups, seafood, meats and poultry, vegetables and rice. An appetiser of salt and pepper squid with Hon Shimeji mushrooms was very different to its standard rendition, light and crunchy with the mushrooms adding a melting quality. Our main dish was created especially for the London opening: truffled black cod with nutty lily bulb and Nameko mushroom, where the subtly enhanced the truffle, was outstanding, rich and melodious. Only soy chicken poached with star anise and smoked in Jasmine tea was a little underwhelming and surprisingly tough (especially made with Bresse chicken, which is usually so tender) and seemed rather too salty. Do order the scallop and truffle egg fried rice, another memorable treat. Even baby pak choi with garlic is beautifully presented like a flower and cooked with precision.
Desserts are often neglected in Chinese restaurants. Duddell's have gone to town: an exceptionally fine and properly tangy yuzu tart with perfect fine pastry served with yuzu ice-cream, and black sesame crisps, as well as a refreshing coconut and lime pannacotta with lychee sorbet and pandan cream both impressed.
It would be easy to get carried away with the wine list – as is befitting such splendid surroundings – and splash out on a serious vintage, though there is plenty on offer by the glass too.
We look forward to the arrival of more art for the restaurant (a considerable attraction in Hong Kong we gather) and returning to try more from the alluring menu that mixes authenticity and creativity with considerable finesse. Whether for a big occasion or a quick dim sum taster Duddell's is a winning addition to London Bridge's restaurant scene.
Price: £160.00+ dinner for two including drinks; £50.00+ dim sum for two including tea; bar snack menu available too.
|What||Hong Kong's sophisticated Duddell's opens in London Bridge|
|Where||Duddell's, 9a St Thomas St, London, SE1 9RY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||London Bridge (underground)|
07 Dec 17 – 21 Dec 18, Open daily: lunch noon-3pm; dinner 6.30pm-11.30pm (10.30pm Sun)