Yauatcha is a Michelin starred Chinese restaurant in Soho, much loved by many, and literally spitting distance from Oxford Circus. I happened to go there for lunch on a day where I’d slept in until about 11am. After I’d had my obligatory cup of coffee, I was sitting at home wondering whether or not there was any point bothering with the rest of breakfast with most of the morning already gone, when I got a surprise call from my Aunt asking whether I wanted to go to lunch. I think that was the most perfectly timed and perfectly pitched lunch invitation in the history of my life. I flew into the shower, threw on some clothes and jumped on the tube in time to be there for 12 noon. An hours’ turn around time; that’s record timing for me. Hunger is an amazing motivator. There’s usually no way I can get my act together that quickly in the mornings without prior notice.
Where: 15 Broadwick Street, London W1F 0DL
Good for: Lunch, dinner and drinks. A great place to take a date or a client whom you’re trying to win over in a condusive setting
Price range: From about £30 – £50 per head. Of course this depends how many dishes you have and on what you choose to drink
The food: Suffice it to say that the food here is wonderful and is great for sharing. I particularly enjoyed the Dim Sum and the desserts; each piece so delicately constructed and the flavours were out of this world. If you’ve ever been to Hakkasan, you’ll be right at home at Yauatcha. And there’s their pared down version called Cha Cha Moon which is not far away, just off Carnaby Street (not sure if it’s still there now). All three are the brainchildren of Alan Yau. I used to go to Cha Cha Moon years and years ago in my student days when I was interning at one of the Conde Nast magazines, which had offices round the corner on Broadwick Street. Cha Cha Moon is much cheaper, obviously, but I really feel that if you can afford to, you should definitely go to Yauatcha. There is huge attention to detail here and the food is just as great to look at as it is to eat. For example, look at how carefully the squid in the Singapore Noodles is cut. That’s eye candy, and I like it. The skill and craftsmanship is evident in every bite – the ingredients are more inspiring, and much more alive. The food is as though it is conceived of by someone obsessed with perfection and the more you eat, the more you come to respect the precision with which each morsel is constructed; layered flavours that reveal themselves in sequence. I like how they manage to keep Chinese food modern and trendy, without smarmy gimmicks or being a bit too clever by half.
The decor: Very tastefully done so you feel you are somewhere relatively smart but doesn’t at any point feel stuffy or contrived. Upstairs is bright with lots of natural light streaming in through the sheet glass frontage, and then downstairs is a bit more relaxed; made to feel like a cosy den with a big bar and tables that look like they encourage conversation. There is mood lighting throughout that starts off ever so gingerly; and as daylight wanes, it gradually takes over until you find the room bathed in gentle, life-affirming hues. I was particularly impressed by the bathrooms. I have not said this on the blog before but I always, always consider the bathroom facilities when rating a restaurant. There are certain places I don’t eat because I feel the bathrooms tell you what the kitchen is like and in some cases, that’s not good news. The loos tell you a lot about the minds of the people who run the place, in what regard they hold their customers, and their general attitude to cleanliness. The bathrooms at Yauatcha apart from being spotless, and chock full lots of earthy, woody, Feng Shui elements, are well stocked with Aesop hand soap and hand cream. How exciting! Aesop is a brand for the conscious, curious, discerning consumer and I was really thrilled to see that a restaurant would be so kind as to provide guests with the good stuff when they could easily cut it all out in favour of some abrasive, surgical-grade detergent, in a bid to save £x per year. Obviously, I don’t know whether Yauatcha gets their Aesop goodies from Liberty, just down the road, who have a wonderful beauty section and who I immediately think of when I think of where to get these products in London, but that stuff is not cheap and I like that I can go to a restaurant and have my sensibilities stroked so attentively by people who obviously care about aesthetics! I realise I am waxing lyrical at this point, but it is really all in the detail.
The service: Wonderfully attentive, with a customer service strategy that plays the long game. This is the sort of place where they remember your name when you walk through the door, if you dine there often enough. Our waiter was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, what we might enjoy, and what quantities to order.
My verdict: What is not to love? Yauatcha isn’t a London favourite for nothing. Have you been recently? What’s your favourite dish?
On this particular day, we had Lobster Dumplings with Tobiko Caviar, Mustard Green and Edamame dumplings, Prawn and Bean Curd Cheung Fun, Striploin Beef and Enoki Mushroom Cheung Fun, Fried Soft Shell Crab, Singapore Noodles, and Pak Choi. These were all mouthwatering and I kept trying to figure out which my favourites were. Eventually I had to accept that for this meal, favouritism would not work.
For dessert we had the Mandarin Macadamia and the Green Tea Choux. I have to say, that I was blown away by my Mandarin Macadamia. The chocolate was so rich and intense and dark and velvety. I LOVE dark chocolate, and when it is deployed to full effect in a dish, there is nothing like it.