Royal China Baker Street: Old school rules (June 2016)

Amidst the quest for all things new and trendy, it is often quite refreshing to return to the traditional. Ask most hip Londoners what they think of Chinese food and the typical response would probably be to rate high-end Hakkasan or its more affordable peer Yautcha. However, if you want a more authentic experience – and one that does not necessitate a visit to the too-tacky Chinatown district – then take a trip to Royal China. Now a mini-chain spanning some half dozen restaurants in a variety of London outposts, its flagship venue stands on Baker Street and has been here for some 20 years. Cool it is not, perhaps most reminiscent of a large canteen, albeit one with Oriental furnishings, but based on how busy it was on a recent weekday lunchtime, clearly Royal China is doing something right. It ain’t the service: I was, for example, asked by three different people what drink I wanted within minutes of arriving and before my comrade had joined and, in general, none of the staff seemed to be aware what others were doing. But, in terms of food, the restaurant is hard to fault. In itself, having a menu spanning 100+ dishes across both Dim Sum and more conventional mains is an impressive feat; being able to prepare them all to a high standard even more so. On this occasion, we chose a la carte and enjoyed a fine spectrum ranging from succulent fried chicken with a chilli sauce, to sizzling beef via subtly flavoured greens. Elsewhere, we spotted few dissatisfied customers and mostly empty dishes. At c£80 for two all-in (including beers and service), Royal China isn’t obviously cheap, although through more careful selection, and tea rather than alcohol, the price would obviously come down. What you get though is very good and probably more authentic than many other Chinese places in central London.