A good restaurant is the alchemical combination of so many factors. A.Wong Restaurant in Pimlico (and soon to open in Bloomberg Arcade) seems to nail them all – the delicate delights that Andrew Wong and his team serve up even had Jay Rayner writing a sonnet.
Why? The dim sum lunch menu is stellar. A.Wong Restaurant is in the pretty humble, but slowly emerging Wilson Street, Pimlico, just behind Victoria Station, tucked amidst old man pubs and a few mini-chain restaurants that punch above their gastronomical weight too. Each time I’ve been, I’ve fallen in love with dim sum all over again.
Coming from a Pacific nation, it’s fair to say that our cuisine flits between traditional English and exciting Asiatic flavours with a unique New Zealand flair (take the humble Feijoa for example). As such, even as a student, I remember excitedly strolling through Wellington, off to dim sum brunch feasts in hidden restaurants where they didn’t really have menus. They just had carts laden with steaming baskets wheeling past our table, so we would let our palettes run wild as Chinese Mamas pointed out their delicacies. #Authentic as millennials would now say.
So, yeah I’m a bit of a diehard dim sum addict.
I’ve been to A.Wong a fair few times now, and a) I never think to book a table far enough in advance, forgetting that even on a Tuesday lunchtime the restaurant is full and b) find it difficult to choose between the delicacies listed in the menu. From the cloud-like Char Sui (aka the Laughing Buddha Bun above – which I won’t order anywhere else) all the way to the aerated sesame dumpling (which makes my mouth water just typing.)
In celebration of the great Cantonese tradition, the team have put together a lunchtime collection and interpretation of 點心 (dim sum) or ‘touches to the heart’. Strangely enough (and very on-brand) I always go there with people who have touched my heart. My latest lunch partner was the fabulous and inspirational Maggie founder of Planes and Champagne, not to mention The Luxe Elixir, who began by messaging me ‘I’m here already, and I’ve ordered us a bottle of champagne’ which is hands-down my favourite kind of welcome.
I found her sat in a dappled a pool of sunshine on their small front terrace, shaded from the world by boxed bamboo plants which gave us our own little corner to chatter away a few delicious hours. We ordered 5 to 6 dishes each which is a little lower than the recommended 8 to 10, but it was lucky we did, as we had to borrow a second table to accommodate all of our plates, glasses and bamboo steamer baskets fresh from the kitchen. We pretty well ordered two of everything and most of my favourites.
The wonton with garlic, chilli oil and crispy bean curd was a delectable mouthful (above), as were the moreish Wagyu tarts with black beans, peas and crispy onion (below). Each was a delicate balance of flavour, texture and intrigue.
We loved the pork and prawn dumplings crowned with pork crackling (top below) and the shrimp dumpling with citrus foam was delightful if the rate it disappeared was anything to go by. Maggie also enjoyed her crispy wonton with sweet chilli jam, whilst I looked on in ordering induced-envy (not pictured – had too much envy).
One of my favourite and most intriguing dishes are the aerated dumplings which you deflate by painting on plum sauce in a decadent mini-theatre performance, before scooping up the sesame-studded sections. (Spoiler: it was by this point that on our first visit Binny and I had already decided to re-visit.)
But, but, the piece de resistance are always the steamed duck yolk custard buns, something I have to order. Me Oh My. Disguised cheekily with a homage to ripe peaches, they are one of the dishes where Andrew Wong’s signature twist on classic Chinese recipes shine through.
Served warm, the smooth doughy exterior hides a sinful custard, finished off with a gyoza-esque crispy base. They are heaven on the tongue and the perfect finish to a light lunch in the sunshine. And yes, that is our empty dish in the background of this image – proof of how delicious this was.
So, that alchemy reference I made way back at the start of this post? It’s the combination of beautiful ingredients, expert flourishes to traditional recipes (as an anthropology student Andrew Wong took the restaurant over from his Father), intriguing flavour combinations*, the recently refurbished cozy restaurant (which is perfect for everything from a ladies lunch to a business meeting) and a dim sum menu where you can order as many individual portions as you like. The tantalising A.Wong Restaurant alchemy of a Michelin star winner…
*I know my food descriptions could be embellished more, but quite honestly I’d rather spend that time on the website booking another dim sum lunch there!
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