db Eats: Duddell’s

db’s resident glutton, Lucy Shaw, heads to dim sum specialist Duddell’s in London Bridge for perfect Peking duck and Ridge’s heavenly Monte Bello Chardonnay.

Duddell’s is housed in the Grade II listed St Thomas Church in London Bridge

The concept: Duddell’s started life in Hong Kong in 2013. The Michelin-starred Cantonese venue, housed on the top floors of the Shanghai Tang Mansion on Duddell Street, is one of Hong Kong’s buzziest restaurants and a place to see and be seen.

Founded by restaurateurs Alan Lo and Yenn Wong, the men behind Tom Aikens’ The Pawn and Jason Atherton’s 22 Ships, and wine merchant Paulo Pong, the original Duddell’s is a social hub boasting an art gallery and roof terrace bar.

Dovetailing with London’s growing appetite for dim sum, its sister site opened in a converted church a chopstick’s throw from The Shard late last year. The place is so new the scaffolding is still up, making the entrance hard to find.

The décor: One of Duddell’s best attributes is the space it occupies and designer Michaelis Boyd’s thoughtful conversion of St Thomas church, which aims to recreate the feel of a 1960s Hong Kong ‘tea restaurant’.

The dim sum symphony

Dating back to 1496, the church takes its name from Thomas Becket, whose famous pilgrimage to Canterbury began in London Bridge. The oldest surviving operating theatre in London is gathering dust in the garret.

It’s a gorgeous space, with soaring ceilings, giant stained-glass windows and grand golden chandeliers. Flooded with natural light, many of the original features within the Grade II listed building have been kept, including the wooden alter.

A teal tiled bar spans the length of the room, housing a panoply of booze at one end and the dim sum kitchen at the other. At the entrance you’ll find a copper shoe designed by Tom Dixon housing the restaurant’s quirky business cards.

The food: Heading up the kitchen is Daren Liew, former executive sous chef of Hakkasan, so a man who knows his dumplings. The menu, which begins with a flurry of chef’s recommendations, is a little hard to navigate.

Offering Cantonese classics like honey glazed char sui, crispy salty chicken, truffle roasted black cod, lobster noodles, XO beef shin, and roasted duck spring rolls, those who, (like me) err on the greedy side, will need super human levels of self-restraint not to order the entire menu.

Signature dishes: Two dishes define Duddell’s: the dim sum symphony and the Peking duck. For the authentic Duddell’s experience, it’s worth ordering both. Designed for sharing, the dim sum selection features a silky scallop number, one rammed with meaty king crab, and an adorable prawn parcel shaped like a goldfish.

The Peking duck stole the show however. Served two ways, the perfectly glazed bird is theatrically carved tableside and comes with a dizzying array of condiments, including fennel sugar, aged mandarin, sesame and pineapple.

The highlight of the serve is the classic pancakes set up, which includes slivers of crispy skin to dip in the fennel sugar. My only criticism is there wasn’t enough of it, leaving my companion and I fighting for the last juicy sliver.

Its reappearance for the second serving alongside ginger and spring onion was altogether uninspiring. The meat seemed dried out and the dish lacked a sauce to add interest and flavour.

The black truffle rice was as decadent as it sounds, but my highlight of the night were the crispy prawns with yuzu, which I could have eaten a bucket of.

The fattest prawns I’ve ever got my lips around, their innards were sweet and juicy, the whole experienced heightened by the mandarin-like elegance of the sticky yuzu sauce in a sublime union of hot, sweet and citric flavours.

The drinks: The best way to begin the evening is with a cocktail. My Fah Mulan, a cherry-laced twist on an Old Fashioned, fused Nikka from the barrel Japanese whisky, cherry sherbet, sake, plum essence and Peychaud’s bitters.

Prettified with a cherry encased in a globe of ice, the cocktail was the perfect union of power and elegance. The wines are no less exciting. Alex our affable sommelier was keen to pour us some quirky drops, from an earthy Frappato from Sicily to Gaia’s plum-scented Greek red – Notios – a Syrah/Agiorgitiko blend.

The star however, was Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay 2014 dispensed from a Coravin, which offered a kaleidoscope of creamy, buttery flavours.

Don’t leave without: Ordering dessert. While puds at many venues are an afterthought, my yuzu tart was a delight. Light and creamy with a punchy citrus tang from the yuzu and a pleasing buttery crunchy from the biscuit beneath, it charmed until the final bite, and left me feeling refreshed rather than stuffed.

Last word: A night at Duddell’s doesn’t come cheap – the duck alone is £72, but you could happily share some dim sum with a friend at brunch for far less and while away the hours drinking in the delicious architecture. For fans of dim sum, considered Cantonese cuisine and elegant interiors, Duddell’s is a must.

Duddell’s, 9a St. Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY: Tel: +44 (0)20 3957 9932

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