Monday, September 28, 2009

The Old China Hand, Clerkenwell


A pub which serves Dim Sum? Surely these two concepts should be mutually exclusive. Dim Sum for me has always been a big sit down occasion, where plates of fried and steamed loveliness are transported on platters and towers of bamboo steamers, only to be wolfed down, whilst still succulent and warm. My image of pubs is somewhat different. Beer dominates, and civility is often no more than an afterthought. Fruit machines, pool if you're lucky and more often than not, a few nuts and a tin of pringles to stave off the munchies.

The Old China Hand has an interesting history. It's been an Irish pub, then hired a Dim Sum chef who consequently retired, became a Mexican restaurant (called El Gringo, no less) and finally reverted back to serving Dim Sum. Modern and clean in appearance with a really nice bar area, this was the location of choice for my friend's engagement party.


Arriving slightly early, I decided to give the Dim Sum menu the once over with the happy couple. It looked like a decent selection and it served in fours, which is always far more acceptable than in threes, I find. Here's what we had:

Gai Choi Gau - Mushroom, mustard cabbage, celery, garlic dumplings
Gai Choi Gau

Jap Choy Gau - Asparagus, mushroom and water chestnut dumplings
Jap Choy Gau

Chicken Satay
Chicken Satay

Jai Chuen Guen and Gee Mar Gai - Chicken Sesame toasts and Cabbage, water chestnut and mushroom spring rolls.
Jai Chuen Guen and Gee Mar Gai

Char Siu So
Char Siu So

Teen Sze Gau - Prawn and Celery balls
Teen Sze Gau

On the whole, everything was very good. The dumplings were succulent and very tasty, the fried goods relatively grease free. One of the things they pride themselves is on using natural flavours and ignoring MSG, certainly a world away from many Chinese restaurants. My main criticisms would be cost (each dish was over £4) and portion size, which frankly, were tiny.

The bar itself had a wide variety of lagers and ales from all around the world. The main bar area was spacious and the barmen were friendly and accommodating. It's a good fun venue and I believe that Dan and Emily had a great time (all the best guys). I think the fact that I ended the night drinking some strange strawberry beer and setting sambuca on fire indicated that it must have been a successful night.

The Old China Hand - 8 Tysoe Street, Clerkenwell, EC1R 4RQ

Old China Hand on Urbanspoon


Helen @ World Foodie Guide said...

I can't remember who recommended this to me recently. I had it on the list then it disappeared as part of a cull. I like the look of those fried balls (last photo)!

Hollow Legs said...

You'll find very few dim sum restaurants serving dumplings in fours as four is a very unlucky number; it means death when pronounced ever so slightly differently!

Mr Noodles said...

This place reminds me of the Drunken Monkey in Shoreditch - went there a few years back expecting to hate it but actually dim sum was OK - mind you don't know what its like now.

On the numbers thing, Lizzie is right that four is an unlucky number but har gau and siu mai are usually served in fours in most places.

tehbus said...

Aah yes, I remember that some buildings in Hong Kong don't have a 4th floor.

EatNorthSouthCentral said...

Oooh thats at the end of my road. I've walked by a few times but it always looks quite empty. I think after reading your review that I will make an effort and go in!