My excitement level was off the roof when my friend sent me a picture of the then-unopened Hong Kong Restaurant in Islington with a halal sign at the door. Halal Cantonese restaurant? Halal dim sums? Taste of home? I mean, please count me in!
London’s halal food scene is pretty good compared to many other non-Muslim countries. Over the years, it has really grown and continued to evolve, which is something I absolutely love to see as a food blogger. However, there’s one particular cuisine that still needs an awful lot of work – authentic halal Chinese food. I’m not talking about those fancy haute cuisine fine-dining Chinese restaurants or greasy takeaways with dishes that are unheard of in Asia. What’s lacking is real authentic halal Chinese restaurants with actually good Cantonese dim sums and traditional dishes that reflect a true taste of my Hong Kongnese home.
Hong Kong Restaurant: Halal Chinese Dim Sum in London by ex-Novikov chef
Usually, when I hear of halal Chinese restaurants in the UK, I tend not to bother about them knowing the outraging inaccuracies in interpreting the cuisine. Hong Kong Restaurant caught my attention and successfully drew my interest with its traditional dim sum menu that showcased a variety of dim sums that I grew up with. Another reason that gave me ‘reassurance’ was the fact that Hong Kong Restaurant is run by an ex-Novikov chef. Having been to Novikov Asian twice before and being impressed with their small selection of fine-dining style fusion-flavoured dim sums, I’d got high expectations for Hong Kong Restaurant.
Apart from dim sums, they also have a Chef’s Special menu featuring a range of stir-fries and other traditional dishes. All meats served are halal at Hong Kong Restaurant. No pork is present on the menu.
The Food & Dim Sums at Hong Kong Restaurant Islington (what we ordered)
Date of visit: February 2023
- Jasmine Tea (£2.50 per head)
- Har Gau (Steamed Prawn Dumpling / 蝦餃) (£5.80)
- Salted Egg Yolk Bun (Steamed Custard Bun / 奶黃包) (£5.50)
- Chicken Xiao Long Bao (雞肉小籠包) (£5.80)
- Chicken Siu Mai (雞肉燒賣) (£5.80)
- Chicken Feet with XO Sauce (鳳爪) (£5.80)
- Chicken Puff (香麻雞粒酥) (£5)
- Fried Prawn & Sesame Rolls (炸蝦卷) (£5.50)
- King Prawn Cheung Fun (鮮蝦腸粉) (£5.80) & Yutiao Cheung Fun (油條腸粉) (£5.50)
- Deep-fried Prawn Dumplings with Salad Cream (沙拉炸蝦餃)(£5.50)
Jasmine Tea (£2.50 per head)
First things first, when you go for dim sum meals, we call it “yum cha” in Cantonese, which directly translates as “drink tea”. Tea is an integral part of a traditional dim sum experience. We ordered the Jasmine Tea, which comes in a traditional white teapot and is refillable throughout your meal like how it is back home. Hence the tea is charged per head instead of the pot. When you require a refill, simply lift the teapot lid up to signal the waiters to refill the tea for you.
Har Gau (Steamed Prawn Dumpling / 蝦餃) (£5.80)
Starting with this classic steamed prawn dumpling. The filling was pretty spot-on and well-seasoned. Whilst the dumpling skin got a beautiful translucent colour, it was, however, a bit too doughy to taste. It’s the nature of Har Gau dough ingredients that when it’s made too thick, it’ll leave you a slightly gummy texture, which is the case here, unfortunately. A slight miss for this dim sum but it was still okay considering the filling and overall flavour.
Salted Egg Yolk Bun (Steamed Custard Bun / 奶黃包) (£5.50)
It doesn’t trump Bun House’s ones but these are still definitely some solid steamed Cantonese custard buns. The bun itself was soft and fluffy, whereas the custard filling was wonderfully enriched by the salted egg yolk. Additionally, that lovely runny centre was a bonus delight. You can’t absolutely cannot go wrong with ordering this dim sum!
Chicken Xiao Long Bao (雞肉小籠包) (£5.80)
I was most excited about this because I absolutely adore xiao long baos. But unfortunately, the greater the excitement, the bigger the disappointment. Xiao Long Baos are all about that burst of richly flavoured soup in the dumpling. These, however, tasted dry and lacked seasoning. There was a little bit of soup but was far from how they’re supposed to be. Moreover, the foldings at the top of each dumpling were a tad bit clumsy and didn’t meet the 18-pleat requirement of Xiao Long Baos. On a side note, the staff had also forgotten to serve us ginger and black vinegar for the xiao long baos and we had to chase them for it.
Chicken Siu Mai (雞肉燒賣) (£5.80)
From all the dim sums we had during this meal at Hong Kong Restaurant, the Chicken Siu Mai was probably my favourite. They were perfectly chewy with a light bouncy al-dente texture. Everything from flavour to texture was pretty much spot on and it was, overall, a delightful one to enjoy.
Chicken Feet with XO Sauce (鳳爪) (£5.80)
We unanimously agreed that the chicken feet were our least favourite of the afternoon. The Cantonese dim sum staple should be saucy and feature a robust savoury flavour. Rather bizarrely, these got a tangy taste. The mismatched taste was rather unpleasant and a far cry from how this dim sum dish should be. We fed that back to the staff and they very kindly offered another dim sum dish for us to swap.
Chicken Puff (香麻雞粒酥) (£5)
These chicken puffs are essential like a savoury puff pastry but Cantonese style. Flavour-wise, they were decent, with some resemblance to a char-siu flavour, but lacked oomph. The pastry itself could use a little more buttery touch either and failed to make an impression.
Fried Prawn & Sesame Rolls (炸蝦卷) (£5.50)
These Fried Prawn & Sesame Rolls are essentially like a smaller version of Prawn Cheung Fun but coated with toasted sesame and pan-fried till golden. There was a very light fragrance from the sesame seeds but the overall flavours of the dish were sort of underwhelming. The side of sweet chilli sauce helped a little but it was, all in all, a forgettable dish.
King Prawn Cheung Fun (鮮蝦腸粉) (£5.80) & Yutiao Cheung Fun (油條腸粉) (£5.50)
We ordered two Cheung Funs – one with King Prawn, the other with Yutiao (Chinese fried dough). The Cheung Fun was executed to the perfect texture that’s soft, tender, and chewy. It wasn’t too thick or doughy to taste and had a decent amount of filling. However, for both dishes, the filling itself really lacked seasoning which ultimately left the dish an underwhelming one.
Deep-fried Prawn Dumplings with Salad Cream (沙拉炸蝦餃)(£5.50)
Last but not least, we also ordered some deep-fried dumplings. Fried to a golden crispy texture, you can’t go wrong with them. Though it must be said that they weren’t anything special or particularly outstanding.
Restaurant Review Summary
Despite my excitement, the food at Hong Kong Restaurant has left much to be desired. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, I’m grateful that the halal Chinese food scene seems to start taking a step forward with the opening of Hong Kong Restaurant. We all need to start somewhere, right? For now, the dim sums, at least, have yet to hit the mark. Now I hope that this is the beginning of an evolution of halal Chinese cuisine in London and when the day of authentic dim sums happens, you bet I’ll be the first screaming at the top of my lungs about it to you all!
All meats served are halal at Hong Kong Restaurant Islington
Nearest station: Highbury & Islington / Angel