When Yauatcha Soho opened in 2004, it completely broke the mould. Part of the Hakkasan Group of restaurants, it took traditional dim sum out of Chinatown, combined it with the finest European patisserie and created a sophisticated contemporary tea house in the heart of Soho. Within a year of opening, it was awarded a Michelin star which it has retained ever since, one of only three Chinese restaurants in Britain to currently hold such an accolade.
The restaurant owes its longevity to the very finest Cantonese cooking, an excellent selection of cocktails and loose leaf teas and a jaw-dropping display of incredible pastry confections presented in glass vitrines that are visible from the street. In contrast to the bustling market stalls and colourful fabric shops of Berwick Street, the ground floor tea house is a serene haven of blues and greys with an enormous fish tank along one wall, while the basement restaurant is dark and intimate with black spot-lit tables, opulent furnishings and another fish tank running the whole length of the bar. Stepping inside is like being transported momentarily from the narrow streets of Soho to Hong Kong or Shanghai – this is Chinese fine dining at its most impressive.
Dim sum is at the heart of Yauatcha and there are over forty different options on the menu from the signature venison puff to perfect prawn and beancurd cheung fun, from springy charsiu buns to unctuous scallop shui mai. If you have any room for main courses, the joyous bombardment of soy, chilli, salt, oyster sauce and umami continues with familiar and unfamiliar dishes from the Cantonese canon.
Having said this, it is the desserts that set Yauatcha apart. Chinese cuisine is not celebrated for its puddings but under Executive Pastry Chef Graham Hornigold the Yautcha team have married the very best traditional techniques of European pastry with Asian flavours and ingredients known for their palate cleansing properties. The result is a selection of literally mouth-watering desserts that need to be experienced to be believed. For example, the signature raspberry and chocolate rose delice is a divine chocolate mousse cut with the acidity of fresh raspberries that manages to be rich and refreshing at the same time.
And then there is the amazing selection of colourful macarons – coconut and lychee, banana and cinnamon, lavender honey, cashew caramel – and the decadent handmade chocolates and petit fours... Happily, these are available to take home on the off chance you have run out of room!