Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Ping Pong - St Katherines Dock, London

I have been quite scared of Chinese food for some time now. I had possibly one of the worst cases of food poisoning ever a few years ago, contracted after eating at a dodgy Roast Pork and Tofu dish at a Chinese restaurant that will remain nameless in Guiseley, West Yorkshire.

Needless to say I finally relented the self imposed ban on all things suspiciously Tofu and Oriental last week. We were in St Katherine’s dock after a quick wander around the Tower of London to try and shake my hangover and happened across Ping Pong, a Dim Sum Restaurant chain that has quite a few outlets across town.

Despite being quite near to the Tower of London it’s over the bridge from there so unless you’ve gone to look at the Yachts tourists might not find it so it’s normally full of the City types that live around the dock. It was fairly quiet as it had just gone 12 but the sun was shining in through the windows and it looked pretty nice inside so we popped in.

It’s a fairly relaxed style of service, as the French waiter explained, you choose what you want and tick them on menu sheet and they bring them over when the dishes are ready. Given my “innate” suspicion I was a little wary so played it quite safe to avoid any hiccups if you like.

The menu is broken down into different sections: Nibbles, Fried, Steamed, Vegetables etc and is really easy to follow and definitely targeted towards a European clientele but that’s not necessarily a bad thing all the time.

Time to order, the Lady and I settled on Sichuan Pork Crackling, Scallop and Shitake Steamed Dumplings, Soy Beans and Celery Salt, Crispy Hoi sin Duck Spring Rolls (I told you I wanted to play it safe!) and a portion of Steamed Rice with Vegetables wrapped in Lotus Flower leaf.

They came served with some fantastically hot Chilli dips which blew away my hang over.  The Pork Crackling was incredibly crispy and lightly spiced. Had it come out of a bag with a picture of a pig in a butchers apron on the front? Possibly but if it did the pig was holding a Chinese Cleaver.

The Scallop and Shitake dumplings were an absolute delight, sticky yet really quite light Wheat Flour pastry that tasted ace with just a little Soy. The Soy Beans with celery salt were an afterthought, we’d wanted the Broccoli but that was out of stock. They were ok but could have been a bit saltier.

My favourite dish was the steamed Rice Parcel, it had said a hint of garlic but these were full of the stuff. Really just what I needed. The safe bet of the Spring Rolls was just that, tasty, meaty dipped in the spicy chilli it was good and hearty. The most surprising thing on the menu were the drinks. Iced Tea’s that really were fantastic.

I went for the Lemon Grass that was amazingly refreshing and the Lady chose the Kalamansi Bubble Tea, really strong Citrus Orange flavours that had little chewy Tapioca balls in that looked like Tadpoles.

All in all as a return to Chinese cuisine it was great for me and got me over the fear, if you are looking for something 100% authentic you may be better served elsewhere but this is well priced at £26 for two for a light lunch and good fun.

Ping Pong St Katharine Dock on Urbanspoon

Blue Print Cafe - Shad Thames, London

Blue Print is situated above the design museum just down from Tower Bridge on the South Bank. It has fantastic views across the river and considering the location is amazingly good value at £22 for two courses and £27 for 3.

We had booked to go in between Christmas and the New Year so unsurprisingly the restaurant was not very busy but did mean we got some good attentive service and the food came out quickly and was spot on.

Now quite luckily the Lady actually spent some time working here and the Kitchen team remembered her from years back so we were treated to a round of Champagne and a plate of the most beautiful Salsify wrapped in Filo with Parmesan before we’d even had a chance to order.

It really is a testament to a restaurant when the Kitchen team stick around and want to work for a Chef for so long so well done Jeremy! The starter was fantastic and the textures worked perfectly so I was really impressed.

For mains the Lady chose the Brill and Bream with Green sauce, the fish was really nicely cooked and in her words "Lush" the sauce worked well with gentle flavours of the fish and looked gorgeous. I chose the Lamb Cutlets with sprouting broccoli and a Anchovy and Parsley sauce.

My word it was perfect... It is really easy to mess up when you are cooking lamb cutlets, but these were spot on! The meat pink and juicy and the fat crisp and lush. They did attract an additional supplement on top of the set menu fee but it was well worth it.

I had actually forgotten how much I love anchovies as well, the dressing worked so well with the Broccoli and the Lamb, the salty goodness really set off the creamy fats and healthy green of the veg. I was pretty much in heaven.

The lady went for the Lemon Posset for desert, it came with a tart raspberry sauce and was a little creamy gem, I’d gone for the Crème Brulee and it was amazing. Chatting with the chef afterwards it is apparently the best Brulee in London. It’s a pretty bold claim but I don’t think I could make better, in all honesty it was delicious.

It was getting quite late by the time we left and had finished the very reasonably priced Spanish Sauvignon Blanc at £22. So we set off into the drizzle to find another bar before bed but were very well fed so the cold didn’t dampen our moods too much at all.

Blueprint Cafe on Urbanspoon