Feeding The Hype | Din Tai Fung Opens In London

One of the most hotly anticipated openings I can remember, Din Tai Fung finally opened its first London restaurant a few days ago. Like many others who’ve tasted Din Tai Fung’s famous Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) before, I was very excited to find out whether they would be as good as I remembered from our trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

I visited with friends on the first Sunday after they opened, grateful to the two who arrived an hour before opening time to secure first place in the growing queue for our group of seven.

All of us had eaten at multiple branches of Din Tai Fung before, so we made sure to include everyone’s favourites in our order. Going in a large group meant being able to order far more of the menu than any of us had managed before, visiting solo, or in twos or fours.


 

I’m happy to report that it lived up to our memories and we had a delicious meal.

Pictured is Mr Eat Love Noodles, who has ‘campaigned’ for years for Din Tai Fung to come to London! He was also the one who arrived an hour before opening to ensure that we had first place in the queue when the restaurant opened their doors at 11 am!

 

Both the Oriental Salad (£4.50) and the Cucumber in Garlic & Chilli Oil (£4.50) were exactly as remembered, the latter a particular favourite of mine.

We also ordered a portion of Dou Miao (Pea Shoots) with Garlic (£9.50, not pictured), which were low on the garlic but a welcome addition of green freshness.

We ordered quite a few xiao long bao, all of which were excellent.

Din Tai Fung have brought staff across from Taiwan to launch the restaurant, and, just as you can in the branches I’ve been to there, visitors can watch the dumplings being made in a perspex-enclosed kitchen area. Dim sum chefs train for several months to master the skills, and watching them cut and weigh dough, roll out the dough, add the filling and quickly fold the signature 18 pleats on each dumpling is mesmerising.

The classic Pork Xiao Long Bao (£10.50 for 8) and Pork and Crab Xiao Long Bao (£14 for 8) were both very good – delicate, containing a decent puddle of soup, and the usual moist and tasty filling.

The Prawn and Pork Shao Mai (£14.50 for 8) were among my picks from the meal, having not had these before, I was surprised these were a soup dumpling version of shao mai. Fabulous!

 

In a second round order of dumplings, we chose Pork and Vegetable Jiao Zi (£10.50 for 8), which I thought were decent but my least favourite of the steamed dumplings.

We also ordered seven Chilli Crab Xiao Long Bao (£2.50 per dumpling) which were hands down my runaway favourite of the meal. The filling had such an intensity of crab flavour, beautifully balanced with chilli spice; I could happily have eaten all seven on my own, though I’d have had a riot on my hands if I’d tried!

The Black Vinegar and Chilli Pork and Vegetable Wontons (£7.50 for 6) were decent, though I prefer the Prawn Chengdu Jiaozi at Baozi Inn.

Prawn Wontons Soup (£9.50) was warming, and the broth good.

But the other dish that really impressed everyone was Chicken Soup (£11). Made by steaming the chicken for almost two hours, before adding to a broth made over several hours, the chicken is so tender that the word itself feels insufficient, and the meat and broth are at the same time rich in flavour while also surprisingly light and fresh. This signature Din Tai Fung dish lived up to all expectations!

A portion of Noodle in Spicy Sauce (£8.50) was okay, there wasn’t quite enough sauce but the noodles had decent texture.

Pork chop featured twice, first Pork Chop with Dry Noodles (£13.50, not pictured), in which the noodles were bland and the pork chop a little dry. Then in Pork Chop with Fried Rice (£13.50), which was far superior, the pork chop much more succulent and the egg fried rice a perfect rendition.

Many of the dessert options were not available, so we ordered a portion of Sweet Taro Xiao Long Bao (£9.50), filled with delicate lilac taro paste, they were a mildly flavoured end to a great meal.

We visited just a few days after the restaurant opened, and there were quite a few menu items that were unavailable, as some of the key ingredients have not yet made it through customs for delivery. The restaurant hope to be able to offer their full menu soon.

Our meal for 7 came to £230, including service, that’s just under £33 per person. For the range of dishes, and quality, that felt absolutely fair. It’s more expensive than the branches in East Asia, but many of the costs of running a restaurant are proportionately higher here too.

This opening has been so widely anticipated that there are long queues to get in right now. With 250 covers, most of those waiting for doors to open were seated reasonably quickly, but the queue was far longer by the time we left a little after 1 pm than when we entered, and probably much slower moving as well. The restaurant is open from 11 am to 10.30 pm Monday to Saturday, and to 10 pm on Sunday.

I’m so pleased Din Tai Fung have maintained their high quality for their first European branch, and that the xiao long bao and other dishes are as good as we all remembered and hoped. This place is worth the hype, so do make plans to visit yourself soon.

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19 Comments to "Feeding The Hype | Din Tai Fung Opens In London"

  1. Jade LIN

    Thank you for sharing this lovely experience. I totally agree with you that going there with a big group is the best approach for dining at Din Tai Fung, especially for the beginners.

    I was there on the first opening evening. I guess that I waited for 2.5 – 3 hrs because my phone dies while waited in the queue. I really appreciate you mentioned about Dou Miao (Pea Shoots) with Garlic. When I saw it on the menu, I almost bursted into tears. It was such an important dish and many families order it in the important dine out occasions.

    I am a fan of hot&sour soup. When the temperature drops, I always crave for a bowl of nice hot&sour soup in London. For years, I hardly find something that I like, and last Wednesday I was so satisfied. I think it was the good quality of ingredients and right taste of vinegar and slight amount of white pepper – taiwanese taste won my heart 🙂 ( I read in a news article in Taiwan that Din Tai Fun made their own vinegar )

    By the way, I was around Covent Garden on Thursday and Friday nights. I would love to try other dishes but they closed the queue around 9ish. The staff apologised and told me that many dishes sold out.

    Happy Dumplings !!
    Best wishes

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I’m not great at queuing for long periods, not least because I have a bad back and hips, and find it really uncomfortable. So I was super grateful for the two members of our group who staked out the first spot in the queue from an hour before opening time. You were dedicated to wait nearly 3 hours to visit on the first evening! I think the queues will go down before too long, and of course, as they are open through the entire day, you may well be able to visit for a very late lunch or a very early dinner mid afternoon, without such a long wait!

    Reply
  2. Joan

    I love the one in Melbourne – the dumplings are appropriately soupy .
    Here we can queue , get a buzzer and go away . Took a year or so before they did this.
    I like the service too.
    Look fixated to trying the London one .

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    That’s what the ones in Taiwan and HK were like. In one we were given numbered tickets, and an overhead display showed approximate wait times and when our numbers were called. In the other, I think they gave buzzers but we went when there was no queue.

    Reply
  3. Rachelle

    I’m so glad that the food lived up to your expectations. There’s nothing worse than expecting a food experience to be the same as before (or better), only to find out that you either built it up in your mind too much or the quality just wasn’t the same.
    The Chili Crab dumplings sound delicious! I live in a land-locked area, so good seafood is very hard to come by. And that pricing sounds totally worth it!
    BTW – you might want to consider putting a banner at the top of this post, warning reader that they will be drooling uncontrollably by the time they finish! 🙂

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Ha haaaa, love the idea for the banner. Read on and salivate at your peril! Yes, it’s always hard going in with such high expectations, as it’s so often disappointing, so was really pleased this lived up to our hopes!

    Reply
  4. Jen Morrow

    Those soup dumplings look amazing! London is known for its legendary queues, so I am not surprised to see that massive line. The behind the scene of watching them make the food is so cool, what a treat. I will have to stop by for lunch next time I am in London.

    Reply
  5. Shreya Saha

    The dumplings have intrigued me too much. I am a fan of dumplings. It’s a great idea to go there with family and get a bigger table. Undoubtedly it would be very crowded and you would need advanced reservation. Nice to know that you have enjoyed the food. I have never been to any of its branch, but I am sure it is a lavishing chain of restaurants.

    Reply
  6. Daniel

    What a coincidence- I’m just about to visit London in a few weeks! I am a big fan of dumplings and would love to check it out but those long queues don’t sound appealing at all. Nevertheless, it was still lovely reading about your experience and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the food.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I would think in a few weeks queues will byle much less! Shout if you want to meet up! 👍

    Reply
  7. Mamta Gupta

    Wow! Love the pictures :). That food looks superb!
    It will definitely a meal for a group. It will be too expensive to taste more than a few dishes for 2-3 people.

    Reply
  8. emman damian

    I love Din Tai Fung! I tried it for the first time in Macau! I love their Xiao Long Bao! It’s really so yummy! I can’t wait to eat there again.

    Reply
  9. Martha

    This post has left my mouth watering! All the foods that you tasted look so delicious and scrumptious! I love the unique combinations as well. The pork and prawn dumpling sounded delicious. I’m also surprised that the food is such high quality at a branch restaurant. Kudos to London for catching onto the hype though!

    Reply
  10. Emilio Marcos Sierra

    Wow the food…. the food looks amazing! Your post has made me very hungry haha. I have been to London a lot of times but I have never been to Din Tai Fung! The pictures were amazing, and because of your article I think next time I am in London I’ll have to go and check it out!
    Thanks for sharing

    Reply
  11. blair villanueva

    No wonder Din Tai Fung is worth the wait. I experienced dining at their old branch in Hong Kong and luckily we didn’t wait for a minute. The foods are awesome and you have to take your time and enjoy each bite.

    Reply
  12. Sinjana Ghosh

    I love dumplings and momos. This restaurant looks a perfect place to eat for me. Your pictures are awesome and makes me hungry just looking at the food

    Reply

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