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We decided to take advantage of the 20% off offer displayed on their website and organised a luncheon for a group of us (12 in total) on a Sunday lunch. It was pretty deserted and I think never achieved more than half occupancy, which was a bit of a shame as the seating and décor was rather pretty and certainly a far cry from the typical Chinese dim sum parlour.
Speaking of typical Chinese dim sum, the food here is most definitely not “as per standard” in style and construction. Some might even term is as a “Hakkasan wannabe”. Anyway, onto the food…
“Chilean Sea Bass Fillets & Diced Asparagus 'Cheung Fun'” – the sea bass fillets were individually great to eat, but the taste were a bit subdued by the flour coating of the cheung fun. Not bad but, definitely needs more sea bass fillets.
“King Prawn & Chinese Chives 'Cheung Fun” – I still snigger and jeer at the “king prawns” found here, but anyway this was a decent if not particularly special version of a typical dim sum dish. Its worth noting the cheung fun was soft, light and not over cooked.
“Quail Egg & Seafood ‘Sao Mai’ (minced scallop, prawn, crab meat & baby pak choi wrapped with quail egg)” – taste and texture wise this was actually a really good siew mai with lots of seafood flavour infused and the seaweed wrapping gave it an interesting taste not usually experienced while eating dim sum. The quail egg was largely decorational for me though.
“Original Shanghai 'Xiao Long Bao' with minced pork & chef’s special stock” – one of the worst XLB I’ve eaten. Firstly, nice and cute presentation but I didn’t really know how to scoop it properly - just doesn't work. Secondly there was
no very little soup stock within the XLB and lastly the barren desiccated little things just didn’t taste that nice either.
“Pan-fried Turnip Paste with Dried Meat with XO Sauce” – this dish drew praise from the entire table for the delicious XO based sauce. The turnip pieces were a contrast of textures with a crunchy coating but delicate and soft interior. We ordered a couple extra portions after we finished the first two plates.
“Mooli Croissant” – finely julienned strands of sweet turnip encased within a little pastry shell. Was surprisingly nice and tasty.
“Baked Mushroom & Seafood Bun” – not only was this a rather small bun to begin with (pretty sure I can stuff 3 into my mouth!), but there wasn’t a lot of filling inside as well. The bun itself is pretty nice though, slightly sweet-ish, soft and airy (just like the filling). Seriously, more filling please!
“'Char Siu Bao' Barbecue Pork Buns” – the bun was not too bad without any of the alkaline taste sometimes found, but Shanghai Blues has been way too stingy with the filling, which itself lacked sufficient richness and meatiness. Poor show.
“Shanghai 'Shui Jiao' in Exotic Chilli Sauce, dumpling with prawns, minced chicken and mushrooms” – not sure how exotic the chilli sauce was, but it had just the right level of spiciness to light up the dish without making me choke and splutter. The dumpling itself was not bad.
“Sampan Congee with Minced Beef” – don’t recall any minced beef… the porridge was pretty good though with lots of little offal bits floating around while I liked the consistency of the porridge in the typical HK style with its sticky starchy consistency.
“Steamed Rice with Chinese Mushrooms, Cantonese Chicken & Chinese Sausage” – considering how easy it is to make this dish (PigPig does a fantastic version I gobble up with glee, its almost criminal how they can serve this underseasoned and without enough sauce for the accompanying rice (there was a fair amount of white rice left behind as there wasn’t enough tasty stuff to eat it with).
“Mini Egg Tarts (Sweet)” – pretty disappointing and dull; the custard wasn’t particularly creamy or sweet enough while the pastry seemed a bit on the heavy side.
“Barbeque Chicken Fillet Wrapped in Bamboo Leaf” – not really sure this fitted in with the rest of the menu. It was a bit tricky to get the piece of chicken out of its clothes as we only had a pair of chopsticks each, and I’m not sure if it was worth the effort either. It was strongly flavoured with the barbecue-like marinade, but there wasn’t anything much else here whilst other versions I’ve tried usually has a smoky aroma from the cooking process.
Moving onto the desserts, which all seemed to be East-meets-West fusions.
“Red Bean and 'Quan Fa' Tea Flavoured Pudding” – it was an interesting idea, but one that didn’t work for me as the red bean paste was too sweet and simply hammered the more delicate jelly topping into oblivion.
“Mango Mousse & Pomegranate with Guava Sorbet” – the mousse wasn’t anything special but definitely very palatable and nice to eat. Using a tropical fruit like guava for the sorbet was an interesting choice as well which worked out fairly well.
Jackfruit cheesecake – the only item in this review which I can’t find on the menu on their website. Anyway good riddance as well because this was wrong on so many levels. For starters, it didn’t taste of jackfruit at all. Unfortunately it tasted of something far worse, descriptions from around the table ranged from “the aftertaste of vomit” to “armpit” and “like milk gone bad”.
We spoke to the waitress and explained we were worried that this plate had gone bad. She went to speak to the chef in the kitchen then returned saying that the chef had tasted it and confirmed that the rest of the batch tasted the same (presumably this was his intention then). She did offer to give us another plate (we hurriedly declined) then told us she would take this off our bill.
In retrospect, the lattermost of the descriptions above probably proved to be the most accurate as I got a couple of texts from my fellow diners who developed diarrhoea.
“Chocolate Fondant with Praline & Jasmine Tea Ice-Cream”, “Fresh Melon Almond To-Fu” and “Assorted Home-made Ice-cream” – didn’t try either of these but the respective owners looked fairly happy eating their dishes.
Containing a blend of mango, raspberry, lychee and cranberry juice, the “mango and raspberry blush” was a hit among the girls (and a couple of the guys, no finger pointing though).
Altogether, the bill came up to £21 per head including a 20% off which is available all day Sunday and lunchtime on Saturday. Service felt pretty slow throughout and it took at least 30 minutes for the first of the dishes to come out while some of them took well over an hour. The restaurant was only half-full at best too.
Service – 4.0
Atmosphere – 6.0
Value – 4.0
Although called Shanghai Blues, the food served has very few, if any resemblance to Shanghainese style dim sum and is definitely more in the mould of high-end fusion cuisine in the likeness of Hakkasan and Yauatcha. While some things were done very well, others were downright pathetic and overall I think that it could have been so much better.
Best bit: not actually tasting the aftertaste of vomit. Its funny how something that sounds so disgusting actually made people go “ooooh I wanna try!!”.
Worst bit: gastroenteritis.
193-197 High Holborn,
Camden Town, London,