Nightclubs where you normally enjoy magnums of Champagne aren’t normally places where you expect top quality dim sum, but Fu Manchu is an exception to the rule. Based at Clapham North under a railway line, Fu Manchu doesn’t appear to be that type of pretentious venue where the door policy depends on your clothing policy.
Having visited in the daytime for weekend brunch, the venue is surprisingly airy and bright with a conservatory roof, warm burgundy leather couches and subtle hints of oriental artwork. When your nightclub/restaurant is named after an archetype of the evil criminal genius with an infamous moustache, you almost expect the decor to be garish and over the top.
They have 2 very popular infinity brunch offers over the weekend: a Saturday bottomless brunch, where you are offered free-flowing Prosecco for only £17.50 when you purchase at least 3 dim sum dishes and all you can eat dim sum on Sundays for only £19.50 per person. When we visited on Saturday, the only drink within sight of our table was Prosecco and the staff were quick to refill glasses when the bubbles were running low.
What of the dim sum? The variety and quality were both substantially higher than what you would rightfully expect from a venue that prides itself as a nightclub. With 37 options, some of which are extremely innovative options like kimchi and mushroom dumplings, you probably get more choice here than most dim sum restaurants in Chinatown.
The classic dishes work particularly well here like prawn and chicken open dumplings. The meat and seafood were premium quality and well sourced and delicately steamed in a wicker basket. Other traditional dishes were equally irresistible like king prawn dumplings and the much maligned sesame prawn toast. They have managed to make this fried dish look elegant and refined; it taste crunchy without being too greasy.
Some of the newer dishes worked less well. It was difficult to taste the lobster in the lobster and prawn dumplings, because the meats were so finely minced. The kimchi and mushroom dumplings were a little too spicy whilst the crab and pork sauced dumplings were beautifully presented in individual wicker baskets, but some came with the skin exposed with the crucial soup inside having escaped.
A large part of the dim sum experience is about how delicate and tender the steamed dumpling skins are; at Fu Manchu you get the authentic fine version. The skins are thin and often infused with ingredients like spinach to create appetisingly coloured dumplings.
A nightclub might be the last place you look for a feast of exotic flavours, but Fu Manchu has delivered on that and more.