Sunday 4 December 2011

The Royal China Club, Baker Street, central London

For a Chinese restaurant, the Royal China Club has an unusually luxurious interior. It has very comfortable fabric chairs, starched white table cloths, bamboo panelling and leather padding on the walls. On the way in, you pass crowded fish tanks, packed with lobsters, eels, crabs and other sealife eking out their last few hours. The menus are long and comprehensive. From the dim sum selection, the sesame rolls filled with prawn and mango, which melt in the mouth, are a good choice, as are the succulent steamed dumplings - fillings include scallops and prawns with garlic. However, the minced lamb buns are a bit pedestrian - the flavour might remind you of a lame steak and kidney pie.  Among the larger dishes, the crispy duck with plum sauce, accompanied by wafer thin pancakes and crudite, is very moreish, but you don't get a great deal of food for £13.50 a pop. Similarly, the rice with chicken and seafood is a modest portion for a tenner. It is served in a huge leaf, making it good to look at, but hard to handle.  In general, the Royal China Club's food is a bit pricey, as are the drinks (330ml of Tiger beer for £4.50), while the bottled water is extortionate at £4.50 a time. You are served by a platoon of black-shirted, dour staff who keep topping up your glass. At busy times, you might have to wait a while for the various elements of your meal to arrive. The Royal China Club is comfortable and you can book a table, but you'll find a lot better value in Chinatown. 6/10