One thing is for sure, you won’t miss the bourgeois looking exterior of Plum Valley with is slate black sombre entrance. It does stand out from the mostly retina soothing golden lacquered char siu pork strips, crispy pork belly and shiny roast ducks that dominate the windows of Chinatown’s main strip along Gerrard Street. Inside there’s more of the same dark wood and a partly mirrored wall to give the illusion of depth right above a brown leather banquette that swoops around one side of the restaurant. Posh externals aren’t always synonymous for wallet bashing though, so don’t expect a hefty bill at the end, unlike Hakkasan who charge a lot to cover their light bills. Expect Cantonese fare, I came for the dim sum out of my own volition – my arm doesn’t need twisting.
Taro croquettes £2.90 are a ubiquitous dim sum item and I order them always. They came first. It’s annoying when they arrive cold and when the filling lacks those deep savoury notes of soy, white pepper and oyster sauce. Better I’ve had elsewhere at the like of Yi-Ban or Royal China Club.
Char siu pork puffs £3.40 were better, albeit in need of a bit more warmth.
From the chef’s specials we got the whisker black cod rolls £3.70 which was a cocoon of crispy angel hair noodles wrapped around a slither of delicate pearly white fish. For good measure, there is a ribbon of nori around the whole business that serves more for aesthetics than anything tasty. I’m probably embellishing this dish as in reality it was all about greasy fried noodles with a pot of salad cream on the side.
Fried turnip cake with XO sauce £5.50 was attention grabbing and had the hallmarks of something great. Turnip cake alone is a profound thing but when you stir fried it with the crunch of beansprouts and the slingshot of umami you get in XO sauce it becomes cleverer and more intense. It just deserved to be more than lukewarm – at best it was lukewarm. There is a reoccurring theme here is there?
Fried dough stick cheung fun £4.60 is an exquisite dim sum dish, it can be a riot of textures with a silky rice wrapper around the crunch of fried dough sticks that soak up all of the brew of glorious sweet soy. This is exactly what we got here.
Malaysian style morning glory £10.80 delivers a stellar punch of funk from the shrimp paste and chilli. They do justice to a legendary dish in my eyes.
We finally got something that required some cooling before we could ram it down our throats, the beancurd rolls with prawns and oyster sauce £3.20, but they were tedious to eat owing to their lack of flavour. I’ve had better elsewhere like at the likes of again Yi-Ban and Imperial China.
Siu mai another classic of pork and prawn wrapped in wonton skins £3.30 was bit of a duffer too – irritatingly, none of the ingredients really stood out.
Har gau £3.40 looked the part but lacked pertness and sweetness that you get with good ones.
Chicken feet with blackbean sauce £2.90 are one of my favourite things to eat for all their gelatinous majesty, but I found these ones greasy – too oil slicked for my palate.
Kudos again for doing something different with scallop and spinach dumplings £3.50 which we’re perfectly edible but monotonous.
The prawns and chive dumplings £3.40 were in the same vein like many of the other dishes – a little tepid and insipid.
Beef meatballs with beancurd £2.90 were consumable, but nothing else that memorable.
When did I go? Sept 2018
The damage: Expect to pay £20/35 per head sans drinks
The good: Not a lot stood out, but they do a good morning glory. Fried turnip cake is quite an uncommon dim sum item and it’s a beauty that deserves to arrive hot and saturated with wok-hei. The surroundings are quite date night-ish which could be argued is the restaurant’s USP.
The bad: I think I gave up mid-way through the meal when things were arriving either tepid or just a drab to eat. I think the quality or lack of quality of the ingredients were the meals undoing. Sorry not sorry about my whining.
Would I go again? Meh
Address: 20 Gerrard St, West End, London W1D 6JQ