Considering the enduring popularity of Asian food on the London dining scene, it is somewhat of a surprise not to see more dumpling restaurants appearing on our high streets and markets. However, the appearance of Ugly Dumplings on the culinary scene might be the catalyst to change people’s perceptions on the versatile, humble dumpling.
They currently have a cosy, quirky restaurant space in the Carnaby Street area of Soho. With a quirky, tongue-in-cheek attitude, the aqua-marine fronted restaurant space readily draws in hungry punters. Sadly, I never made it down to their basement area despite the sign at the front door saying “more ugly downstairs”, which is probably where I belong.
The menu shouts dumplings, dumplings and more dumplings. It’s helpfully divided into classics and new-age favourites and when we visited on National Dumpling Day, they even had some in-house specials which were mind-bogglingly innovative.
My guest opted for the vegetarian platter which included the likes of cauliflower and potato, spinach and tofu and the most popular option being the halloumi and courgette. The melt-in-your-mouth halloumi and the crunch of the courgette was the ideal combo to be encased inside a dumpling.
I opted for the seafood platter, which contained the likes of prawn and chive, which was probably the closest to classic Chinese dumplings and salmon, lobster and tarragon. However, if you want to try the really outrageous varieties, then a visit over the weekend might be advisable. I tried the English breakfast dumplings and it did literally feel like the full English which was all tasted within 1 bite.
Sides weren’t an afterthought here with some very tempting options. We tried a highly crunchy aubergine tempura with honey dressing and peanuts. If anything, it probably had too much crunch as a dish. My guest was delighted with the burnt corn and mango salsa offering which gave a fruity kick to the proceedings.
Uping the peculiar stakes were the fried blueberry dumplings with crème fraîche. It was a dessert that felt oddly Western and Eastern at the same time with the inner core resembling a blueberry pie whilst the outer casing was unmistakably oriental.
This might not be your classic Asian restaurant but they’ve invented something which is catered towards the British taste and potentially something more enduring than a temporary pop-up fad. Apart from the restaurant, they also make frequent appearances at food markets throughout London.