|Siu Long Bao - soup dumplings|
The dim sum restaurants on Baker Street are often said to be the best in London - Royal China Club (or is that Royal China?) are held in high regard. If I'm honest it is laziness that's prevented me from getting there; similarly, it's awfully close to where I work and no one wants to be going anywhere near that at the weekend.
But Mr Noodles is a man in the know, and when he says a dim sum place is worth visiting, well, it's time to make the effort. Bright Courtyard was startlingly posh and I made every effort to hide my scuffed trainers from view. The room is hushed but bright, monotones and clean lines, pretty flowers decorating lazy susans. Serving staff are well turned out in suits and - gasp - very cordial. The a la carte menu is on an iPad, but we were there for the dim sum alone.
There's no paper tick box here, and the dumplings are translated to English; siu mai and har gao aren't immediately obvious to spot. We snacked on complimentary spicy cucumber, reminiscent of the smacked type you get from Sichuan restaurants, as well as edamame. Once we'd ordered, the dim sum came thick and fast and before long our table was packed with dishes. Perhaps a little too much so; I like to take my time and make my way round as they come without fear of things going cold.
|Prawn & Mango Dumplings|
Siu long bao (top photo), those sought-after soup-filled dumplings, held their broth well but the filling could have been more flavoursome. Prawn and mango dumplings were a bit left-field, at least in my experience; bouncy prawn meat held mango sauce inside (photo), to be supplemented with additional mango sauce. I enjoyed the the fruit and seafood combination. Others found it too weird.
|Hong Kong Cheung Fun|
|Cheung fun with cuttlefish|
|Chilean Sea Bass in Sichuan Sauce|
Chilean sea bass with Sichuan sauce was one of the pricier dishes at £5.90. The fish is thinly sliced and lightly fried, wrapped around sticks of cucumber and vermicelli noodles and then bathed in a spicy, numbing sauce. Lovely balanced flavours - slightly sour, salty, spicy and a tingle on the tongue.
|Pork & Preserved Egg Congee|
Pork and preserved egg congee was delicate, the rice grains just broken into the light broth. Served with some chopped up fried dough stick, these were added at the table with spring onions before our waiter served us all individually. Heavy on ginger flavour, a little soy sauce was needed to pep it up a bit, but otherwise soothing and tasty.
A few venison puffs and siu mai later, we decided we needed noodles and vegetables to finish us off.
|Crab Meat E Fu Noodles|
Crab meat E Fu noodles tasted way better than they looked - again, our server persisted in serving us all individually which I suppose means there's no fighting over the few prawns that were lurking in there. Elastic noodles were deeply savoury; there was no discernable crab meat there, but a definite seafood flavour. Lots of enoki mushrooms and crunchy vegetables, this was well worth the £11.50 price tag.
You wouldn't have thought a plate of vegetables would be very exciting but this gai laan (Chinese broccoli) with ginger was amazing in the fact that they bothered to peel the stalks of the gai laan, making the eating of them immeasurably better. My teeth cut through them cleanly without any stringiness or toughness, especially when cooked just right as these were. Cubes of deep fried ginger weren't especially pleasant to chew on but perfumed the dish nicely.
We browsed the dessert menu, more lengthy than other dim sum restaurants but were unfortunately priced out of our decisions as most were around the £6 - £7 area. Not uncommon for a restaurant dessert, but more than we're used to at our other haunts. I was glad we'd ordered the custard buns from the dim sum menu, eaten in between savoury bites, dipped in condensed milk.
I was quite the fan of Bright Courtyard. The service is quite formal but it is friendly and pleasant, the food well executed with a hint of something a bit different. They obviously have good attention to detail, demonstrated by the vegetable dish, and I liked the accessibility of it - an extensive tea menu in English isn't something you get at my local, Dragon Castle. It's on the more expensive spectrum - we paid £27 a head without booze but including service - but in the grand scheme of things, it's not really that much at all considering the delicacy of the things we ordered. Having had a browse of the iPad a la carte, it seems their speciality lies in Shanghainese food; judging by the prices it's one for pay day...
37-67 Baker St,
London W1U 7EU
Tel: 020 7486 6998