Friday, March 6, 2009

Goldfish - London Dim Sum buffet in Hampstead Heath

Goldfish+Dim+Sum+Hampstead+Heath+LondonI was walking along Hampstead High Street when I came across this Chinese restaurant named Goldfish with advertisements outside its door trumpeting its weekend dim sum buffet at £15.50 a pop.

Which self-respecting Chinese restaurant would name itself after a mere goldfish, I thought? Don't they all aspire to be dragons or phoenixes? Coupled with its nondescript appearance I resolved to give it a miss until I came across this review in the Guardian. The reviewer declared that the food served at Goldfish was utter perfection. I was hooked. I must go and try perfection.

One weekend morning, I woke up and decided that I needed a treat after a horrid week. I rang up a friend, told her that we are going to try the best dim sum in London and off we went to Goldfish. We had no reservations but did not have to wait long before we were seated. There weren't many customers and no Chinese customers at that. A good Chinese restaurant should always be bursting at the seams with business. I was getting slightly worried but told myself that maybe for once I was in luck. I didn't have to queue or make a reservation and I could get a table! The interior of the restaurant was rather plain, blue walls (blue!) and wooden furniture. Never mind, I tell myself, I am not here for ambience, I am here for the perfect cuisine.


We were given menus which list their ala carte dishes, but there was no menu for their dim sum buffet. We asked the waitress what the dim sum buffet consists of and were told that "they consist of everything on the trolleys and there are rice and noodles" or something to that effect. My friend looked doubtfully at me but I was up for the adventure. Sure, we will go for the dim sum buffet, I told the waitress. I was charmed. Dim sum in a trolley! How traditional! Maybe I would get noodles cooked on the spot for me.

Well, except that it didn't quite work this way. What the waitress did was to push this little metal trolley up to your table and scoop items out of the trolley on your table in a certain pre-determined order.

Goldfish+Dim+Sum+Hampstead+Heath+LondonThe first items we had were steamed dim sum. Prawn dumplings, scallop dumplings and the like. And they were lukewarm. Have you eaten lukewarm dim sum before? I had, when I bought frozen dim dum from the supermarket and didn't heat them up in the microwave oven for long enough. They were edible, but the whole point about having dim sum is to have them piping hot! The waitress explained that these were what's left of the current batch of dim sum as their chef was not ready with the next batch of dim sum. We were promised hot steaming dim sum for the next round.

In the meantime, we tucked into the fried items (seasame toast, dumplings, beancurd skin which looked and tasted remarkably like one another save for their shapes). We were given small dishes of sweet and sour pork,fried pork ribs and fried noodles as well. With every bite I took, I became more and more miserable. To be fair, those dishes were passable, but were they delicacies? Nope. Not by a long stretch.
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The next round of steamed dim sum came piping hot, thank goodness. This time round, we had custard buns, pork buns and siew mai (pork dumplings). Again, passable efforts, but nothing that I would rave about. Not all the items were replenishable as the term "buffet" suggests. You could only have 1 serving of pork ribs for example. I was beginning to wish that I had gone to Yauatcha for my treat instead.

What about the service? Matthew Norman, the Guardian reviewer, described their service as impeccable. I would say it is hit and miss. It depends on whom you happen to speak to. One staff did not seem to understand our orders, be they in English, Mandarin and Cantonese and made no attempt to find out.

Now, I must confess that my friend was quite happy with the food and it seemed to be the case with the customers around us. I guess it is all a matter of expectations really. If you want normal fare and a buffet is your cup of tea, Goldfish may be the place for you. Matthew Norman, the Guardian reviewer had their ala carte dishes so again it might that the restaurant's magic lies in those dishes. As for me, I am saving up for dim sum at Yauatcha.

Address: 82 Hampstead High Street NW3 1RE
Tel: 020 7794 6238

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Dutchie said...

Hi TT,

Buffet is not served in our town n we do miss it as a weekend treat. Service from a trolley is also disappearing in SG *sob*

Most of our experiences in chinese restaurants around europe r their evident inertia - be it the slow service, sober interior or mediocre food. They r all in dire need of renewed vigour !

We hv not had a "WOW" experience in different dining outlets, so we hv given it up altogether.

Here's a laugh - once, after we had finished dining, the waiter asked if we enjoyed it. Being the asian present, I said that the dishes were not prepared like it should. With a bored look, the waiter replied in cantonese "what does the kwai-lo knows ?" Well, hubby couldnt contained himself n he surprised the dumb (pun intended)waiter with "lei kong mat yeh ah, this kwai-lo happens to know his chinese food !"
With a red face, the waiter quickly shuffled out of sight. Hope he learned his lesson ! And no, they didnt offer any discount to make up for that faux pas !

Anonymous said...

Oh poor u! 1st, i think it was the al carte dishes he (Mr Norman) was talking about. 2nd, i think the name Goldfish was meant to highlight the word "Gold" & "fish" is auspicious in Chinese. 3rd, i think food is such an individual thing so beauty in the eye of the beholder. 4th, Chinese food in Switzerland is a no-go for us - too expensive & just not done the rt way!

Deb said...

I like your food reviews, am alwaaaays interested in food, believe me. However, when I m overseas even in asian countries i.e. the Philippines, Thailand, etc I'd rather go local - eat Filipino, Thai, and steer clear of the so-called true-blue Chinese food.

Whatever 'Chinese' dim sum, etc my Filipino friends rave so much about, I've never found any I'd ever go back a second time. Pfft, why waste time and money to eat sweet and sour pork in different parts of the world, only to be disappointed.

But u continue your food reviews, CK. Suffer on our behalf. ;)

Elaine said...

Poor you... Last time when I past Goldfish, I almost went into it. I think I was so lucky I hesitated by their ambience. I quite like your review. Yauatcha is my favorite as well~~~I think you can find good dimsum on :)