I was having one of those crazy post-holiday work weeks and needed a dose of my friend A. She knew I was missing Asia so she suggested we meet at Shanghai Blues. I hauled myself to Holborn daydreaming of delicious silken noodles, popiah and fresh, meat-packed pot stickers. I couldn't wait.
I got there fairly early and realised that there's nothing as cheery as a big fat happy Buddha to cure your blues.
I was surprised at how big the place was and how nicely decorated it is. A far cry from Chinatown's traditional Chinese restaurants, SB looked every part of a city restaurant: slick, sexy, and modern.
I waited for A by the bar, as you do. I'm quite particular about my cocktails so I always order a dry martini to benchmark. I'd try other drinks if it's good enough but if not, I'd stick to wine or G&T. Their standard martini (£8.90) was good, so I decided to try something else.
Nick the bartender suggested the honey dew melon martini (£8.90). It's suprisingly not as sweet as it looks and it's rather, uh, potent. They gave me some spicy squid crackers to munch on, too.
A turned up and it was time to gobble up some dim sum. (After a few more cocktails, of course.)
First up: barbecue chicken in bamboo leaf (£5.80). There wasn't anything particularly special about the dish, to be honest. Although the barbecue marinade spelt subtletly the chicken fillets were juicy and succulent but other than that, I can't say much about it.
I love Chinese spareribs anything and I'm glad the spareribs with peppercorn and Shanghai herbs (£7.30) were quite tasty. The meat was fall-off-the-bone and evenly spiced and it wasn't so hard nor messy to eat.
The xiao long bao (£5.60) looked incredibly sad. Immediately I noticed the thickness of the wrapper and how shrivelled the dumplings looked. I'm one to forgive presentation so long as the taste is spectacular but unfortunately, SB's XLB is just not up to par. The broth was goners and the filling had too much five spice.
I'd say the same for the sgrilled pork dumplings (£5.80).
We ordered some Singapore noodles which I thought, at £8.50 per plate, was a joke. It was way too oily and the presentation seemed like it wasn't well-thought of. I couldn't taste the curry hint you usually get from SG noodles. My local Chinese takeaway does a better job at £5 per pop. Heck, I think even I do a better job at this!
The chicken and spinach wrap with spices (£4.80) was another disappointment. The chicken was underseasoned and it was all watered down and bland.
I was about to give up until they served the scallop dumplings in spinach juice pastry (£5.60). They looked pretty; the wrapper looked translucent and silky and thin enough...
...and the scallop filling was fresh, well seasoned and substantial! There was a lot to take in those small green parcels. I wish we ordered more of these instead of the other dim sum!
After our meal, A and I went back to the cosy bar and had more drinks. The place suddenly appealed again, as the cocktails and wine flowed graciously and we both went home swimming in inebriated states of awesome.
That said, I can't help but feel slightly cheated with the food. I guess you can say the dim sum selection was a bit unimpressive (or at least the ones we had) and slightly overpriced. Quite a shame because the ambience really looked like the restaurant would serve sexy Asian food. I've not tried their mains, which may possibly be the better choice for dinner, but truth be told I'd probably go back for the cocktails instead.
193-197 High Holborn, London WC1V 7BD | 020 7404 1668
Ave spend pp: £45