There‘s one restaurant in London that feels like an extension of my kitchen: New World in Gerard Street, Chinatown. Over the years, I’ve been there with school friends, university friends, work friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, potential / actual / ex girlfriends, my wife, my daughter, my family, my family’s friends, my in-laws, anyone who happened to be passing through London. My daughter has been coming since she was a baby, and every time the waitresses recognise her and call her by her Chinese name. We even considered having our wedding reception there (admittedly not for very long). There are hundreds of Chinese restaurants in London, but none of them do dim sum like New World. I do go to other restaurants, honestly, (I’m a reviewer for the Time Out Cheap Eats Guide), but coming back to New World is like coming home.
For the uninitiated, Dim Sum dispenses with menus. Instead, there’s a constant traffic of trolleys passing your table carrying piles of small round bamboo boxes, each containing three to five portions of something. The trolleys are themed, some specialising in meat dishes, others fish, others desserts. You hail the trolley as if it were a taxi, choose your boxes, and your bill is updated on a rolling basis. No ownership: the expectation is that you all dive in to the latest arrival with your chopsticks, transferring a portion to your bowl. If you miss out, don’t worry; there’ll be another one along in a minute. It’s eccentric to request rice. Chinese tea is recommended and the pot is regularly topped up. If you fancy something stronger, Tsing Tao beer goes well (the wine list is not New World’s long suit). Personal favourites: roast duck, pork dumplings, prawn cheong fun, egg tarts (for dessert). It’s admittedly not the greatest option for vegetarians, as meat and fish are pretty much omnipresent; but this does make it a very popular meal with kids, as the Vegetable Police are so easily evaded. Observant Muslims and Jews do need to be on the lookout for the way pork sneaks in everywhere. (The Chinese say they eat any animal whose spine does not point to the sun, i.e. everything bar humans.) You can have a thoroughly good feed for £15 a head. If you’re still hungry afterwards, you can stroll through Chinatown and buy a Chinese cake.
The restaurant bustles over three large floors, and all ages, classes and ethnicities come and go cheerfully and without ceremony. There is something deeply homely about the informality and communality of Dim Sum. It literally means ‘touch the heart’, and I’ve never come away from New World without feeling warmed in the heart as well as the stomach. See you there!