Caroline has high hopes that Ping Pong might expand their empire into Yorkshire…
I love Chinese food and often head to Chinatown when I’m looking for a pre-theatre meal in London. Today, however, my son was treating us to lunch and a theatre trip as a late birthday present so he was in charge of choosing the venue. He had often spoken about Ping Pong, a contemporary dim-sum restaurant on the Southbank and now it was our turn to sample it for ourselves.
It’s a biggish restaurant and although, being a Sunday lunchtime it was pretty busy when we arrived at half twelve, we got a table straight away. Bookings are only taken for parties of six or more which is a bit annoying but if you arrive at a busy time they apparently have buzzers to tell you when your table is ready so you don’t need to spend ages standing in a queue. Some of the tables are communal but thankfully we had our own – my technique with chopsticks can often be less than perfect so I wouldn’t have welcomed an audience of strangers!
I’m off alcohol at the moment (two weddings coming up and feeling a tad porky!) so was delighted to see a really imaginative range of non-alcoholic drinks available: mocktails, teas (hot and iced, including a very interesting one containing a chrysanthemum which I couldn’t help gawping at when it arrived for the man at the next table) and my own choice – old fashioned lemonade with a side of strawberry purée. For those not on the wagon there was also a good selection of wines, beers and cocktails.
All the food at Ping Pong is designed for sharing and most of it is bite sized. You make a note of your choices on an order sheet, hand it to the waiter and hey presto it appears in batches as it is cooked. The process all seemed very efficient so if you don’t want to linger you could be in and out quite quickly. We had plenty of time though and there was no pressure to vacate our table. The atmosphere was buzzy but not so noisy that you couldn’t enjoy a conversation.
Now for what we had to eat. Most of the dishes came in threes apart from the spring rolls which came in fours and the chilli squid which came as six bite sized pieces. The following may sound a lot but we were left feeling comfortably satisfied, rather than bloated and our choices provided a good balance between the specials( chilli squid and the delicious pork tenderloin), the dumplings and the less healthy fried items such as the spring rolls and the beef and chilli parcels.
- Chilli squid (2 portions)
- Duck spring rolls (2 portions)
- Lemon verbena char sui pork spring rolls
- Prawn toasts
- Beef and chilli parcels
- Chilli pork tenderloin (3 portions!)
- Chicken and garlic dumplings
- Prawn and chive dumplings
- Crab and prawn dumplings
All the dishes were very attractively presented and most came with dipping sauces, the best of which had to be the chilli, sesame and red amaranth served with the pork tenderloin. The hoi sin sauce for the duck spring rolls deserves a special mention too, as does the mango sauce with the chilli squid. I just wish these sauces were available to buy by the bottle!
All the dishes were delicious but as can probably be seen from the quantities ordered the stand-outs were definitely the two specials: the pork and the squid. Squid can so often be a little chewy but this was cooked to perfection in a light and tasty tempura batter. The pork too was beautifully cooked in a tangy marinade with the afore-mentioned dipping sauce.
All in all Ping Pong is the type of place that I wish there were more of outside London. They have an international presence but nothing north of Watford. They apparently plan to expand so I have my fingers crossed that Leeds might be on their list of potential new locations. With Leeds Chinatown undergoing a transformation, it could do well!
Categories: Restaurant reviews