Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dragon Castle: Home of tasty Dim Sum

Many, many years ago, when drawing maps, cartographers had the difficulty of representing uncharted territories. They overcame this by simply saying 'here be dragons'. Don't bother even thinking of going there, right?

Well, for many Londoners, South London seems to have the same reputation. Time Out recently published a review of a Thai restaurant in London SE15 (which you can find here: Their review stated "The food here may lack the lively complexity of flavour you'd expect in Thailand, but this is Peckham, and most customers will probably appreciate the kitchen using chilli in polite moderation", with the clear implication that residents of Peckham don't have the appreciation for food of other residents of London. Many other reviewers appear to have the opinion that there aren't many good restaurants in South East London. This miffs me. Not just because I have been, for the last 13 years, a denizen of south east London. But because it isn't true. Sure, we don't have 'fine dining' or Michelin starred restaurants. Those tend to be what are now known as 'destination restaurants' - places which are worth a special journey to visit. With our slightly crappy transport links, not many are going to make the trip south of the river to come here. To say we don't have anywhere good to eat is just plain wrong.

So I am going to start posting about the great places in South London. It is time we redressed the balance. There are plenty of areas in London which are barren and bereft of good restaurants, just as there are neighbourhoods with an enviable selection of eateries. 

I will begin, then with Dragon Castle, a Chinese restaurant which specialises in the food of the Guangzhou area (Cantonese food) with, what the restaurant website describes as "strong Hong Kong influences". Situated in Elephant & Castle, it is within a stone's throw of the tube/train station and a short bus ride away from London Bridge and Borough Market. So, an easy place for refuelling after moseying around the market, I would suggest.

 I came for a dim sum fix. I visited with Tasha of the "Food I Fancy" blog ( I should probably come clean and tell you that I am something of a dim sum addict. When I plan lunch dates, I often try to work out whether I can talk my lunch partner into coming out for dim sum. I am also collecting recommendations of good, authentic dim sum houses. Hong Kong is the spiritual home of dim sum, and having prayed in some of its most holy of temples, I can be a fussy customer!

Dragon Castle's interior is functional. Because of its large size, it would be difficult to make any great style statements. As a result it is a little bit like a hotel restaurant. If you are coming here for the decor, you will be disappointed! But the large windows offer lots of natural light, making the space comfortable and airy. 

We decided to order a variety of dishes, some very traditional, and others more the typical choices of 'westerners'. We wanted to get a sample of the dim sum menu across the board; steamed, fried, fish and flesh. All of Dragon Castle's dim sum are made in-house. So nothing has come from a freezer at See Woo!

The calamari was our 'safest' choice, being simply battered pieces of squid, fried and served with chili sauce. They were cooked properly, that is to say, not overcooked. And the chili sauce brought a nice touch of spice. However, the squid itself, I must confess, was a little bland for my tastes.

We ordered some prawn cheung fun. There is no picture for you, because I cut it up and scoffed a mouthful before I remembered to take a picture, so tempted was I by the chunky, fat prawns and the promise of the sweet soy sauce poured over the top! Sorry, everyone! The cheung fun were delicious, and given how many other diners we saw eating it, a favourite menu item here at Dragon Castle.

Another item I must 'fess up to eating and not photographing were the siu mai; a dumpling of meat in a thin dough case which is steamed. Dragon Castle's siu mai are filled generously with pork and prawn, with the balance just right. It would have made economic sense to put in a lot more pork than prawn, but attention to detail and quality of product has won out here. Result!

The turnip cake (which is made of daikon radish rather than turnips) was fried just enough so that it was a little crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside. Sometimes turnip cake can be a little bland, but this is the best turnip cake I have ever had. A real victory for simple food made of simple ingredients being totally satisfying.

The chicken and mushroom clay pot rice arrived in an attractive lidded pot. We found the pot generously filled with chunks of chicken, cooked on the bone for flavour. Personally, I would say it could have done with a little more mushroom. It was comforting and pleasant.

Our most adventurous choice was the very traditional chicken feet. This is such a classic Cantonese dish, you can see steamers filled with them in huge stacks on the streets of Hong Kong. Ours were steamed in black bean sauce laced with chili. The chicken's feet were exactly as they should be; a little chewy, spicy and flavoursome. It's an acquired taste, but one worth acquiring!

Our total bill was £22.80 for food and Chinese tea. Absolutely stunning value, I would say. 
The service was efficient and helpful. Our servers spoke good English, and were able to explain menu items and answer our queries (we did have a little round of pointing at other people's food and asking 'what is that?'; about par for the course for food bloggers!) I have no complaints.

So my overall verdict is that for fantastic value for money, authentic dim sum it is well worth making your way 'south of the river' to Dragon Castle. 'Here be dragons'? Yes, and well worth visiting they are, too!

A word for the wise: I know a number of British born Chinese people whose heritage is that of Hong Kong/Guangzhou. All recommend Dragon Castle for its dim sum. What the evening menu is like, I can't comment. It appears to have received mixed reviews from users of Time Out's website. Perhaps anyone reading this who has sampled the evening menu will post a comment and let me know what it is like?

Dragon Castle
100 Walworth Road, London SE17 1JL
020 7277 3388

Snigdha and Tasha paid good hard-earned cash for their meal. 

Dragon Castle on Urbanspoon


  1. Fab food, fab company! Thanks for introducing me to this place. Your next southern adventure has to be Brixton!

  2. Hello, Optimistic Existentialist!
    Thanks for reading.
    Yes, the turnip cake is really good. I've had it elsewhere and they never quite get it right. However, there is a type you can get with small bits of Chinese sausage in it - very tasty.
    You can buy the turnip cake in the freezer section of the Chinese supermarket if you want to DIY!

  3. Hello Tash,
    I had so much fun meeting you again and scoffing delectable dim sum! I am looking forward to my Brixton food excursion with you!

  4. Excellent place for outdoor eating. The recipe look tasty, exotic and spicy. Furthermore the prices are fair.

  5. Hello iOS for POS,
    Sadly there are no outdoor tables here. Sorry, but you will be disappointed if you go there hoping for al fresco dining. But as you say, prices are good, and the food is tasty. When you visit, I hope you will report back on your experience!