Sunday, 26 June 2016


During a well earned week away and on our travels across the UK we thought it was time to revisit an old favorite of ours with a trip to Ping Pong Dim Sum situated at St Katharine's dock. This dim sum restaurant caught our eye many years ago and has now grown to have branches all over the capital and this would be the third time we have ventured under the shadow of the Tower of London for some of their Asian treats. Would it be a case of third time still delicious? We headed over to the docks to find out!
Walking through the door on a Saturday lunchtime we were surprised that it was so quiet at Ping Pong St Katherine's Dock. Having just missed the midday rush we were pleased that we could of had our pick of the tables inside but whilst it was once again another delightful summer's day in London we decided to go all al fresco and take a chair in the outdoor seating area, once again enjoying the view of the boats all lined up along the dockside. One thing that Ping Pong do really well are their cocktails and their seasonal special titled "Hoppy, Dark and Stormy" is a concoction of rum, Chinese beer and ginger that packs a punch but was perfect for sipping in the midday sun. 

So how does it work? All the dishes are outlined on paper menus at your table and you simply mark the circles next to the dim sum you would like to try before passing this on to your server. Set menus are available if you can't decide or want to save a few pennies otherwise you can eat as little or as much as you like. So what is there to choose? As well as old favorites are seasonal specials like the Kalamansi pork belly skewers. The pork is marinated in ginger, star anise, cinnamon and cardamon to create a beautiful 5 spice like flavor but its the sweet lime and soy Kalamansi sauce that really lifts the skewers and turns them into a proper treat. 

I ended up dipping as many dim sum into the Kalamansi sauce as I could I loved it so much. The black sesame seed prawn crackers we received as a complimentary starter for joining Ping Pong's loyalty scheme for instance made the perfect dipping material for the sauce. These crackers are nothing like the dodgy ones you would get down at your local chippy. They have a delicious crunch to them but still manage to be light and airy whilst the spicy mango sauce they come with is also a winner if you're not a fan of the Kalamansi sauce.  Sweet, sticky, crispy and crunchy, it a veritable taste and texture sensation.

Vegetarians are in for a treat at Ping Pong as well. One thing Ping Pong do have a handle on is their meat free offerings. There are many items on the menu to choose from whether that is some of their steamed buns right through to the more simple affairs such as the edamame beans. They may look simple enough and in essence they are however cooked spot on like they are at Ping Pong and dusted with a bit of salt well, I could of sat here all day popping the beans out of the pods and snacking away whilst sipping on cocktails. Is there a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?
How about if you add in another one of the season specials? The BBQ asparagus seemed the way forward and we were not disappointed. Proper thick stalks of the green stuff, griddled to perfection and served in a rich BBQ sauce and a little garnish of spring onions. Sounds simple again doesn't it but when it tastes this good then you don't need to throw a million ingredients at something to make it special. The same can be said for the tenderstem broccoli we ordered which was lightly steamed so it was nice and tender and sprinkled with some sesame seeds for a bit of crunch.

You can tell the quality of a dim sum restaurant by how good their spring rolls are and in my eyes, Ping Pong's veggie spring rolls are spot on. They were beautifully crisp and golden on the outside so that you get a proper satisfying crunch as you bite through them whilst the insides were filled with basil flavored vegetables which were piping hot, moist and tasty! More that mango dipping sauce is served alongside them in case you've already used up the dip you got with your crackers and it adds a touch of sweetness that really compliments the filling.
Alongside old classics sit some lesser known dim sum items. One of my favorites and one that I would love to try and make at home are the potato and edamame cakes. The potato is described as fluffy on the menu and I can confirm that it most definitely is. They are so fluffy and soft whilst the edamame beans peppered throughout add that little bit of texture to keep things interesting. They are served with Wu Xiang sauce and I have no idea what that is and didn't try it as it looked like satay sauce which I really can't stand but feel free to give it whirl if you visit and let me know what you think. I was too preoccupied with the potato cakes to care anyway!

One section of Ping Pong's menu is dedicated to steamed dim sum items. Steamed buns and dumplings are a staple on dim sum menus across the world and Ping Pong's offerings are well worth a try. The four mushroom steam bun is delicious. Served in traditional wooden steamers, the steamed bun's were soft and fluffy whilst the vegetarian filling of oyster, shiitake, enoki and black fungus mushrooms together with the crunch of additional mangetout, carrot and cashew nuts make for the most fabulous of Asian finger foods. Make sure you have some dipping sauce to dunk your buns in, this is the nearest thing to a round of bread you'll get here!

Equally as tasty were the spicy vegetable steamed dumplings. By the time I got round to trying one of these I had actually forgotten that they were described as spicy on the menu so after all the sweet sauces served with the other dishes it came as quite a surprise to suddenly be hit with a burst of spice but a most welcome surprise at that. I don't think everyone will be a fan of the soft translucent pastry but it's softness does work with the hot firm filling. Great for dunking into any remaining dips you may have knocking around as well. Strange that they would give you three between two people so don't be fighting over the last one!

The nearest thing you will get to anything resembling a main dish at Ping Pong are the rice pots. Sticking with the vegetarian vibe of our meal we went for the tofu, mushroom and black bean rice pot. The rice was proper sticky and perfect for handling with your chopsticks. It is quite filling so make sure you don't wolf it down first so that you have room for all your delicious dim sum. The tofu was perfectly cooked whilst the black beans work alongside the edamame beans and little chunks of baby sweetcorn to add the crunch and texture needed to stop the pot being a gloopy mess. A little bowl of vegetarian wonder!

After all that delicious sweet, sticky and spicy food it was time for a palette cleansing dessert and I couldn't resist the sound of the peach Bellini sorbet. I got a bit too excited and squeezed the pipette of Appleton estate rum straight over the peach and prosecco sorbet so when I took my first spoonful, boy it was strong! Not that I'm complaining as I love a bit of booze but this is definitely not one for the faint hearted. The pomegranate seeds sprinkled over the top not only make the sorbet look pretty but along with the fresh mint leaves they add a burst of freshness that cuts right through the alcohol to really refresh your taste buds. I wanted seconds!

But alas, all good things must come to an end and it was time to leave. Third time coming to Ping Pong and we left once again with full bellies and big grins on our faces. There will almost certainly be a forth visit in the future (open a branch in Liverpool please!). Yes, Ping Pong may not be the height of fine dining but when it comes to great affordable dim sum pleasure, you can't go wrong with a bit of Ping Pong. 

To find out more about the 8 Ping Pong's currently open around the capital or to book a table then check out the website here! Make sure you join the loyalty scheme before you go so you get those free crackers!

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