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Mar 9, 2008 06:41 AM

Pearl Liang in Paddington?

Have some of you been to Pearl Liang? Any views, especially if you've been relatively recently (1 yr ago or so) would be greatly appreciated.

I am trying to find good restaurants around Paddington, since my parents will be visiting soon and are quite enthusiastic eaters. Pearl Liang looks like a possibly good option, so I was wondering what local Chowhounds thought.

We'll also be taking my parents to Hereford Road and/or St Johns. Le Cafe Anglais could also be an option, but we've read extremely mixed reviews about the place, so we're not sure.


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  1. I've never been, but you might want to read this... the reviews (if to be believed) are not very impressive.

    1. I was very disappointed by Pearl Liang. I went in late January with my mother, who was visiting from the US, and my DH for a late afternoon dim sum lunch at around 2 pm. She wanted to go because she was pining for dim sum, and I chose this restaurant because I hadn't tried it.

      The service was slow and a bit bitchy. The maitre d' was rather passive aggressive about seating us. He was non-committal about giving us an approximate wait time. My party had to wait 30 minutes for a seat, which we did without complaint. The restaurant was about 3/4 full, with mostly small parties having late lunches and a few large tables of families/friends. Although it was full, it certainly didn't feel busy or frenetic. Almost all of the tables were at the end of their meal or they were closing out their checks. Only a handful (5) were at the start of the meal.

      When the maitre d' finally sat us, he didn't give us dim sum menus. He only gave us the dinner menus, which have a few dim sum selections albeit at a much higher price. We had to ask several times for the dim sum menu.

      It also took a very long time for our food to come out. There was a 40 minute wait between our penultimate and final dish -- a fried turnip cake and a plate of beef ho fun. And all of the food was poorly cooked. Everything was over-salted and very greasy. The beef ho fun was the worst I've had. It was slick with grease, to the point where you couldn't grab it with chopsticks.

      My poor mother was the most disappointed of all. As a Chinese-American living on the SF Bay Area, she's used to a much higher standard quality of Chinese food. She couldn't believe we paid that much for food at a "high end" restaurant.

      9 Replies
      1. re: misswills

        Very interesting. Which day of the week? If it was a Saturday or Sunday, you will have entered at the restaurant's busiest time. No excuse, mind, but in my experience there are few Chinese restaurants that are perfect in every way during the dim sum rush.

        1. re: Ian

          Thanks for the info. Sounds like if we decide to go to a Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood, we'll stick to Royal China (which in our visits has always been reasonably good).

          1. re: Ian

            It was a Sunday. It actually wasn't busy, as I mentioned. It was about 3/4 full, but many tables were finishing service and closing out on their checks.

            In my own experience of dim sum dining and working at a dim sum restaurant, the weekends are supposed to be when your restaurant is at its best. That's when you have the most traffic flow and everyone and everything is supposed to be "on". Granted, I might have hit a bad day. But everything was consistently bad! There were no hits and misses, they were all misses -- the dim sum, the beef ho fun, the service, everything.

            I would've tolerated the wait, the lack of service, the bad food, etc if the food costs were lower and if I were in Chinatown, where there are lots of "misses". I suppose that's why I'm especially critical of Pearl Liang. With prices and aspirations that rival Yauatcha, I just expected more.

            1. re: misswills

              Prices and aspirations that rival Yauatcha? If that was your expectation, then you were always going to be disappointed. Pearl Liang is positioned a bit more mid-range, more Royal China than either Yauatcha or Royal China Club. I've found the pricing reasonable at Pearl Liang. Chinatown is, on the other hand, far too cheap and unfortunately that normally reflects in the end product.

              1. re: Ian

                Doesn't the quote "Prices and aspirations that rival Yauatcha" refer to the restaurant not the OP's?

                1. re: Ian

                  I was referring to the restaurant's prices and aspirations. It has positioned itself as a Chinese restaurant in the vein of/style of Yauatcha and Hakkasan. But I suppose every nicer mid-range and high-end East Asian eatery aspires to be like Hakkasan nowadays.

                  I didn't go there expecting Yauatcha or Hakkasan. I had read favorable reviews online about the restaurant and decided to give it a go. I was shocked that given the pricing, the food was poor and the service, worse. Given that it is a restaurant that is trying to reach for the Michelin stars, it's got a long way to go.

                  1. re: misswills

                    I don't dispute you were disappointed by your meal.

                    But the fact is that the restaurant has positioned itself as a more contemporary version of Royal China, Princess Garden, Phoenix Palace, etc. And it hasn't been trying to reach for a Michelin star.

                    I've been planning to revisit the place as I've heard there have been staff changes in the kitchen. Your report suggests a move downhill, which is a shame.

                    Anyway, I'll report back.

                    1. re: Ian

                      I have to agree with Ian, it's priced itself more like Royal China (not Club), Phoenix Palace, etc, and it's a decent alternative to those. The food is generally good without being outstanding, Royal China I remember as being more consistent, but they do more unusual dishes. Decor is a little more modern, for those who like such. The service though verged on the abysmal when I was there -- the maitre d' can't cope well with the Sunday crowd.

                      1. re: cavorting

                        I went back a few weeks ago. Sorry for the delay in responding. It turns out the original dim sum returned to Hong Kong at the beginning of this year. Since then, they've gone through a couple of new chefs. The current one has previously worked at Royal China. It was obvious to me that the dim sum wasn't quite as good before - the attention to detail that was previously there was absent. But it's early days - hopefully he'll pick up speed.

          2. It's worth noting that Pearl Liang do a "dim sum platter" selection which allows someone eating on their own to try out a variety of dumplings, so if you're in the area it's plausible to stop by some lunchtime and see for yourself. I mention this because most dim sum places don't do this sort of thing and so you can't give them a fair tryout if you're on your own. (NB this was the case in July 2007 and I can't guarantee they're still doing it, but I haven't heard that they've stopped.) Here's the selection from my visit:

            1. I was at Pearl Liang yesterday for dim sum. I've meaning to go for ages, and went as part of my research for a post on Where to eat dim sum in London (coming in May on my blog!) It was excellent, although I'd have to go back to make sure it wasn't just my good luck. Service was great, table was great (number 10!), food fantastic and much cheaper than I expected (as in cheaper than Yauatcha, Hakkasan and Shanghai Blues). The classics were top quality (BBC pork cheung fun, har gau, Shanghai dumplings), and we tried some 'different things too. Spicy prawn ravioli in soup was delicious, though I didn't think the 'soup' was drinkable! Watercress and meat fried dumplings were lovely (not greasy), as were the crispy duck roll. We paid £15 per head, which included noodles x 2. Highly recommended for dim sum. I can't speak for the dinner menu (yet).

              Helen Yuet Ling Pang

              2 Replies
              1. re: foodie guide

                We went to Pearl Liang yesterday (Saturday) lunchtime and can confirm Helen's report.

                Maybe we are not the worlds greatest experts (although we did live in HK for a few years) however we thought the quality of the dim sum was very good, every dish we had was good and I felt quite well priced. We gorged on: Prawn Dumpling, Shanghai Dumpling, Pork Buns, Taro Crispy Prawns, Crispy Duck Rolls, Spring Onion Cakes, Beef Cheung Fun, Ox Tripe, and Egg Tarts.

                The best were the wonderfully light spring onion pancakes and the delicate egg tarts, with very soft centers and great crisp pastry. The one miss was the Tripe - my dyslexic brain read XO rather than OX so it wasn't what I expected. With tea and 12.5% service the bill came to £28.20 - I skipped breakfast because we had an early lunch and left completely full (and I am not a small person).

                Only a couple of negatives. First the lunch/dinner menus are a bit past their best with a few grease stains on pages and worn covers - I always get concerned about these signals of quality in a restaurant. Second, they brought us an incorrect dish and tried to tell us it was what we ordered (a second duck instead of the taro crispy prawn) was this a gwai lo thing or a slip in service which otherwise had been pretty good although it was a little cold/brusque? Neither of these would stop us going back as the food was great and in our view good value.

                1. re: PhilD

                  I have to report that my parents, who are in London visiting from Costa Rica, have virtually made Pearl Liang their second home. Every meal that they haven't eaten at home, they've had at Pearl Liang. I can also confirm that dinner is fantastic as well (my dad and I chose together). And we're back again tomorrow for dim sum. As my dad is notoriously critical about Chinese food, having owned restaurants for over 40 years, this is indeed a sign of approval!

                  Helen Yuet Ling Pang