You can find Yi-Ban on the first floor of the London Regatta Centre, a place where people have big wings and use paddles as arm extensions, wading through the waters of the Royal Albert Dock. It seats 380 people and it’s a popular choice for weddings and banquets. I feel that the room we’re in was built for function rather than comfort. There’s also floor to ceiling glass walls and a terrace that provides a perch for concrete gawping and London City Airport views. But first, you’ll need to get here, and that requires a lot of devotion unless you live in the Docklands. My journey involved coming up from Surrey. I am a devotee. I came for the dim sum which they sell from 12-5pm and was curious as to how it weighed-up to its much lauded reputation.
The menu is a delight, all he classics are on there and couldn’t be easier to read. It’s great if you’re a novice too as you can use the pics as a guide.
Take a note of the numbers and jot down how many of them you want. Simples
First came the taro croquettes £3.20. For these to be good, they need to have a crisp lacy batter, be full of taro, along with a meaty filling that’s savoury and sweet in all the right places – they nail it here.
Morning glory £10 cooked Malaysian style was just as sumptuous and should not be eaten just for health benefits, but for flavour. I harbour a strong desire to order these every time as they’re one of my favourite green things to eat.
Fried doughnut cheung fun £3.80 was pleasing too – they seem to have got the pastry silken and the soy the right side of sweet.
Beef cheung fun £3.80 slid down nicely.
Har gau £3.40 were pleasingly plump and had the necessary bounce in the prawns which is the hall mark of quality in my eyes.
Chiu chow fun gor (steamed dumplings Chiu Chow style) £3.20 are one of my stalwart orders, I’m like a duck to water eating these. Fortunately, they do them justice and my fat mouth gobbled them up.
Char siu bao £3.20 or roast pork bun are a childhood favourite of mine and here they’re bang-on.
Siu mai £3.40 was done differently here. The filling was more fine that the usual course blend of pork and prawns. I’ve not had them like that before but enjoyed them regardless.
Not ordering steamed chicken claws £3.20 would be a sin – all the flavours are there within the cartilage, skin and sauce. As usual, you’ll need to navigate through the bones using your tongue, but it’s bloody rewarding doing so. I think so anyway, Tom didn’t, he thought they were just plain wrong, you can’t please everyone in this world.
Prawn and chives dumpling £3.20 is another classic that’s done good.
Glutinous rice rolls £3.20 don’t often feature on dim sum menus, I don’t know why as they’re fun and extremely satisfying to eat. The dense chew of the glutinous rice seems to go hand in hand with the soft bun wrapper.
The glutinous rice theme continues with accessories of sweet Chinese sausage, shrimps, shiitake, salted egg yolk and pork wrapped in a lotus leaf £4.80. By this time we had chugged down countless cups of puerh tea, but we weren’t ready to stare defeat in the face and continued to chow-down on this goodness.
Off piste and something I’d wouldn’t normally order is the honeycomb tripe £3.80. They have the distinct funk of mountain goat testicles, I got them for Tom, my dining companion to try – his reaction was priceless. His face was one of someone who was sucking on mountain goat testicles.
Custard buns £3.20 weren’t the runny golden type which I love, the filling was more set, it was nice nonetheless and was a good way to end the meal. Although, you can eat them whenever they arrive, we just sandbagged them until the end.
The taro croquette £3.40 was packed full of of the good stuff again, but what it missed this time around was the ripping heat they had during the first visit. You can’t have it all, all of the time.
The “turnip paste” £3.40 or “lo bak gall” were neatly squared pieces of mooli held together nicely with rice flour. Little nugget of sweet Chinese sausage made an introduction too. The sides were caramelised, with flavours of sweet and savouriness all at once coating the palate.
Vietnamese spring rolls £3.40 were on the money too.
Yi-ban special cheung fun features well made slithery rice pastry filled with char siu pork, prawns and some shredded wood ear mushrooms for crunch.
Fried doughnut cheung fun £4 has stayed consistently good.
Morning glory £10 cooked Malaysian style, a must in my humblest.
Quintessential har gau £3.60 have stayed consistent.
Chil-chul-fun-gor £3.40 are quite possibly the dim sum that fly under the radar for most, I don’t know why as they’re packed full of deliciousness. Again they’ve stayed consistently good.
Snow pea dumplings £3.60 were triangular dumplings similar to the prawn and chive ones, just minus the chives and add snow peas.
Here are my other fave, the prawn and chive dumplings £3.60, they’ve also remained of good quality.
Sin-juk-gwoun or beancurd rolls £3.60 have also remained constant in a good way.
They do their siu-mai £3.40 in a way that the porky bits are nice and course, that goes for the prawns too. A contrast to the fine chop during the first visit, but tasty nonetheless.
Lor-may-gay £5 is still good. It’s very saucy just like me.
There’s something about these glutinous rice rolls £3.40 that I find incredible satisfying. I loved them the first time and the returns haven’t diminished.
The custard buns £3.80 are playfully decorated as little piggies, pink ears, pink snout and little specks for eyes. No piggy flavour of course, but what you get a steamed buns packed full of dense creamy eggy custard.
When did I go? June 2017
The damage: Expect to pay £25/35 per head
The good: They obviously care about their dim sum here which made the mission worthwhile in the end. What I got was cast iron delectable well priced food with zero duds. The second around wasn’t as good, but still it made the trip worthwhile.
The bad: Having the expectation to travel all this way does garner some criticism if you don’t live in the area, but with the diminishing returns of Chinatown dim sum, travelling further afield may well be an acceptable option these days if you’re devoted to dim sum.
Would I go again? Yes
Address: London Regatta Centre, 1010 Dockside Rd, Royal Docks, London E16 2QT