Ping Pong – a dim sum feast

PingPongDimSum © J Horak-Druiff 2011

 

I’ve never been much of a sports fan.  I think it comes from a combination of my being monumentally bad at practically every sport I have ever tried (with the possible exception of snooker/pool and skiing), and my absolute loathing for losing at anything – not a great combination!  But I have to say that I do have a soft spot for ping pong. And before you roll about on the floor clutching your bellies in helpless mirth, let me explain that I am not referring to the game played with littly dinky balls and bats on outsize green kitchen tables – I am referring to the chain of dim sum restaurants of the same name.

I have been eating dim sum at Ping Pong for a good six years now, since I first spotted a branch behind Liberty in Great Marlborough Street.  Dim sum was completely unknown to me until I started blogging and reading about magical things like char siu pork buns on other people’s sites.  I was intrigued.  So when a friend suggested dinner out back in 2005, I suggested Ping Pong and a great love affair began – mainly between me and their char siu pork puffs!  So when I was invited back in February this year to attend a Chinese New year dinner at Ping Pong Great Marlborough Street, I jumped at the chance.

The occasion was to launch a few menu specials for Chinese New Year and my fellow-diners were a selection of writers and lifestyle bloggers – I had the good fortune of being seated next to the charming Londoneer who proved himself a fabulous and entertaining dining companion.  We were also joined by their head dim sum chef which was great as he could provde some details as to how some of the dim sum are made (the vibrant purple seabass dim sum, sadly only on the menu for a limited time, was a great example – they use red cabbage in the wonton wrapper pastry!)

I love the space at the Great Marlborough Street branch.  From the street it looks like any other restaurant, but when you enter and go downstairs, you realise that a large chunk of the back of the restaurant is cut away to make a glassed-in atrium which brings natural light down into the basement level.  Instead of a blank wall, the back of the atrium features a giant projection wall with a reflecting pool below which gives the restaurant a great urban chic look and a tremendous sense of spaciousness.  Diners upstairs also have the option of sitting at the horseshoe-shaped counter looking down on the room below and out at the projection wall.  The vibe is definitely trendy but not intimidatingly so.

 

PingPongPrawnCrackers

Soon we were all settled at the table, sipping on cocktails from their spectacular cocktail menu and nibbling on the completely addictive spicy seaweed prawn crackers – think prawn crackers with attitude. There then followed, in no particular order, a dazzling array of dim sum, some chosen by us and some suggested by the restaurant to give us a good overview of the menu.  Highlights for me included the crispy prawn balls that looked like crispy pom poms and packed a succulent prawn punch; fall-off-the-bone tender honey-glazed spare ribs; the pillowy char siu pork buns; the exceptionally prawny proawn toast;the irridescent green chive cumpling – and my all-time favourite, the addictive pork puffs. Some of the dishes we sampled were from the ‘Ping Pong Pure’ range of translucent steamed dumplings which apparently only contain 500 calories or so per serving but don’t stint on taste. (For larger versions of the photos below, please take a look at my Flickr album of the evening.)

PingPongCollage1
Seafood shu mai; crispy prawn balls; Vietnamese rice paper prawn roll

PingPongCollage2
Honey-glazed spare ribs; sesame prawn toasts; char siu pork buns


PingPongCollage3
Chicken & cashew nut dumplings; har gau; seafood wrap.

PingPongCollage4

Chive dumpling; pork puffs; spicy hot pork dumplings

 

A number of us remarked on the fact that no two dishes tasted the same or even similar, whereas dim sum at other restaurants can often taste rather samey.  Here, flavours were clean and distinctive and many of the dumplings almost too pretty to eat (particularly purple-hued seabass dumplings).  This is a testminony to Pong Pong’s commitment to natural ingredients, lack of MSG and the fact that all sauces are freshly made at each branch, rather than bought in in bulk from a faceless corporation. And when you are done feasting on dim sum, the best way to finish off the evening is with a specatcular flowering teat which grows from a compact dry ball into a billowing blossom before your eyes in the glass.

PingPongFloweringTea

Dragon eye flowering tea; jasmine lily flowering tea

With locations around London; 3-piece dim sum baskets for between £3 and £5; and cocktails all under £8, Ping Pong is one of my favourite affordable luxuries and a perfect place for a girls’ night out.   Or if you need your dim sum fix over the weekend, there is also Lazy Sumdays – all you can eat dim sum for £18.49 on a Sunday. It would be churlish not to go.

Ping Pong
45 Great Marlborough Street  
W1F 7JL

Tel: 00 44 20 7851 6969

Ping Pong Soho on Urbanspoon

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  1. says

    Oh wow. How I miss Dim Sum. There are very few Asian food houses in Galway and certainly none that do Dim Sum.
    We used to eat Dim Sum quite a bit when we lived in the US and this post makes me want to eat some right now.
    Another place to add to the ‘London List’ of fine eateries to try when we go!
    Have a wonderful weekend in Paris.
    xxx

  2. says

    wow! i love ping pong, too, i think we went there together, too…
    i have never tried the spicy seaweed prawn crackers – sounds like they#re right up my alley, as you probably guessed with the package i sent you! ;-))

  3. says

    I think dim sum like tapas is my favorite way to eat. We have a place in China Town called The Golden Unicorn. This place is Dim Sum heaven to me. First you stand on line and they give you numbers, then you are called via walkie talkies and then you sit and then they come with carts full of goodies. No menu and half the time you do not know what you are getting, because English is ralely spoken. When it’s time to pay, they add separate the dishes by size and each size has a price tag on it.

  4. says

    I had the opportunity to go to China 3 years ago and absolutely loved it. We went to a few hosted dinners where they served the traditional stuff and it was amazing trying all the food they had to offer. Some was a bit weird though.

  5. says

    I have to say there are plenty of other dim sum options in London which I think are much better value and better than Ping Pong – but it does have a certain atmosphere that is very appealing and I do love Ping Pong’s cocktails and flowering teas. Beautiful photos as always Jeanne.

  6. says

    Fabulous dim sum, I have not yet managed a visit to Ping Pong (must admit the name makes me smile). I also have a visceral reaction to flowers unfolding in my tea (re your glass plate comment on my post)… yuk!!!

  7. says

    It looks wonderful – I’d love to try it one day – never having tried dim sum yet, except by feasting my eyes on blogs!

  8. Ellen Kim says

    Ping Pong Dim Sum in Washington DC is comparable! It brings London to the US – have you tried it? It’s a great blending of cultures.
    thanks for sharing

  9. says

    @Mona – I had never eaten dim dum till 2005 when I tried it im London – when I was growing up in S Africa you simply did not see it! It was love at first bite though… I will happily provide company to go to Ping Pong on your next visit :)
    @Astrid – ditto! Would LOVE to take you there. So have you booked your ticket to London yet? 😉
    @Johanna – yes we DID to there together I’m sure! The spicy prawn crackers were lovely indeed (and I’m slowly working my way through your box of goodies!)
    @Janice – the tea is one of my favourite parts of the meal – so pretty!
    @Val – I have yet to do a proper Sunday dim sum feast served off carts! :o)
    @Norma – that sound swonderful: I love the walkie talkie idea! And I always think its very democratic to have plates colour coded by price. There is a sushi place here in London that I love that does that too!
    @Matt – glad you liked the photos!
    @Firefly – trip sounds awsome and yes, had to laugh – the traditional Chinese restaurant near our place has 2 menus – one for westrners and one for Chinese. The chicken feet only appear on the Chinese one 😉
    @GourmetChick – you are probably right that there are – I am so lazy abotu discovering new places once i ind a place I like! I do love the chic atmosphere and look of Ping Pong and oh yes, those cocktails rock ;o)
    @Sarah – OK, so far I have to avoid serving you glass plates AND flowering tea hahaha! Ping Pong is definitely worth a visit (and I thought it was only me that found the name childishly amusing!!)
    @Kit – you should try some dim sum in Cape Town next time you go! I went to a great place in Green Point 18 months ago :)
    @Farida – glad you like it!
    @Ellen – I had not realised until this visit that there are Ping Pong branches in outher countries :)