Chinese New Year at Ping Pong

Imagine if New Year’s Eve lasted two weeks. Just one night can take enough planning, but in China, the New Year festivities go on for 15 days.

To celebrate the start of the very auspicious year of the dragon last Monday (23 January), I went to sample the cocktails and cuisine at ‘21st century and dim sum emporium’, Ping Pong.

The Bread Street venue, near St Paul’s, is one of several branches dotted around London. It had a modern stylish vibe with an airy feel enhanced by the floor to ceiling windows.

Cocktails lend themselves well to swish venues and during January and February, there are two additions to the usual menu. The vodka based ‘drogontini’ would suit those with a sweet tooth. I preferred the fruity ‘dragon kumquat’ which combined rum, kumquats, amaretto, apricot and basil seeds.

Basil also featured as a moreish flavour in the cashew nuts and in the sweet basil seafood soup, which had a lovely taste and aroma. A mixture of crispy spring rolls then appeared, including duck, the best seller.

The seafood wrap enveloped in cabbage looked innocent enough, especially with the decoration of alluring lime puree pearls. However, the ‘hint of chilli’ left my mouth like a furnace and overpowered the fish.

There was no risk of such heat from the dim sum. The chicken steamed dumpling was a little bland but the seafood and vegetarian ones were tasty – and healthy, I was told.

Plus, I always appreciate food I would never make at home. I could try, but apparently it takes 14 years to become a master dim sum maker. If you want to make a start on that, Ping Pong offers complimentary half hour classes.

The crispy prawn ball was a not so healthy, but yummy, delight. Deep fried shredded pastry encased a moist prawn filling.

There are also plenty of rice dishes. The braised beef rice pot was one of the seasonal offerings but it could have done with a little more sauce to soak into the coconut rice.

Although very full at this point, I squeezed in a chocolate fondant pudding with milk ice cream which was worth feeling slightly sick for.

Finally, I marvelled at the visual display from the flowering dragon eye tea. If you too are new to this, the bulb reacts with hot water to open into a flower and produce a refreshing brew.

I would go back to Ping Pong. It’s got nice flattering lighting, a non-intrusive background hum of music and chatter and an extensive menu which is keenly priced. It’s a good place to share a mixture of plates which range from £3 to £6 each.

A minor warning; although I carry ample permanent padding with me, the wooden benches felt a little uncomfortable towards the end of the meal but I’m sure that could have been numbed with another cocktail.

Ping Pong
1 Bread Street
St Paul’s

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