PaoCha London: a pop-up Chinese Dim Sum Brunch

pop-up chinese dim sum streatham

The table setting for PaoCha London

The title is a bit of a mouthful but bear with us. A Twitter follower recommended this new eating concept to us and after a quick browse on their website, we knew we wanted to get involved.

The traditional tools behind serving Chinese tea

The traditional tools behind serving Chinese tea

So what is PaoCha London? Two people, Sam and Alex, who have both spent a considerable time in China, decided to create a pop-up restaurant in their own Streatham-based home offering Chinese tea and dim sum. The event seats around 10 people and the menu is based on several courses, each interspersed with – you guessed it – tea.

The menu for the day

The menu for the day

Sam is the main host, while Alex is the artist in the kitchen. We say artist because dim sum he creates from scratch – yes from scratch – is almost too beautiful to eat. We’ll get to that in a second though.

Sam makes a great host, making everyone feel thoroughly comfortable. Her chilled demeanour made for a relaxing experience, putting to bed any thoughts or concerns that sharing a table with strangers could be daunting.

Steamed pork and butternut squash dumplings

Steamed pork and butternut squash buns

Each tea and plate of food was introduced with a bit of background, and Sam detailed the ritual of making Chinese tea, making our Yorkshire tea bag dunking look a little unsophisticated to say the least.

So, the food. Steamed buns packed full (Alex made pork ones and also offered a veggie option in the form of a butternut squash filling), dumplings, pickled veg that had a fresh crunch to it, and spicy greens. Even the snacks at the beginning weren’t just thrown together.

Spinach dumplings

Spinach dumplings

There’s plenty to go around, too – at least two servings of everything so you won’t leave hungry.

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So much detail was paid to the whole event, from the framed, handwritten menu and traditional cutlery to the tea making method which we found rather hypnotic. Sam found that tap water impaired the taste of Chinese tea so ensured the kettle was filled with bottle spring water every time.

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The dessert was a total treat too, featuring moon cakes and mousse poured into hollowed-out tangerines.

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The whole event stretches over three hours, from 12pm-3pm, which sounds like a long time to commit to but it flew by. Sam said there is such a thing as becoming ‘tea drunk’ when the drink isn’t served with food (tradition has it that the Chinese always have some sort of nibble with their chai) but we felt pretty zoned out by the time we left their flat.

So how much is this? Just £15 a head – that’s food, drink and a mini cultural tour in a comfy seat for a ridiculously good price. We couldn’t get over what a bargain it was.

PaoCha currently runs once a month on a Sunday. The next one is 7th June and bookings can be made via Grub Club. Sam tells us they offer private bookings and deals too, so it’s worth getting in touch with them to see what they can offer.

The irony now is that this post was written fuelled by Yorkshire tea. Not quite the same. Oh well…

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Mama Lan, Clapham

Mama Lan, Clapham

Blink while walking along Clapham High Street and you may well miss Mama Lan, a discreet set-up on The Pavement (on the same side of the road as Little Waitrose, walking towards Old Town).

Mama Lan first set up home in Brixton Village but has expanded, with this cute abode as its second premises.

We went early-ish on a Saturday – about 12:45 – and easily got a seat, but predictably it filled up fast so like with most places where you can’t book ahead, it’s worth nabbing a seat early on, unless you don’t mind a short wait.

Who said you couldn't have a garden in London?

Who said you couldn’t have a garden in London?

The layout is simplistic but cosy; exposed brick walls, wooden flooring and tables, but with cute touches – note the plants above the main lighting platform at the front of the restaurant.

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Mama Lan serves a pared down menu split into bigger meals with noodles and soup as the base, or smaller, dim sum style snacking (dangerous, if you’re comparing it to visiting somewhere like Ping Pong).

The Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

The Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

We ordered the Spicy Beef Noodle Soup and Spicy Chicken Ban Mein, along with Pork & Chinese Leaf dumplings. Their dumplings are cooked fresh on site so expect a short wait, but to be honest it’s hardly a bother when you’ve got the comfort of knowing they’re not just taken out of the freezer – oh and they taste amazing, too.

The Spicy Chicken Ban Mein

The Spicy Chicken Ban Mein

The mains certainly have a kick to them – we took advantage of the free water on offer – but as you’d expect from Chinese food, it was fresh and vibrant – think lemongrass, fresh chills, peanuts etc.

Pork and Chinese Leaf dumplings

Pork and Chinese Leaf dumplings

In terms of atmosphere, Mama Lan has nailed a chilled ambience. The service is swift but not brisk – we ourselves were in a rush but we got the impression they’d happily let you stay there and munch on dumplings for hours (well, within their opening times, of course). We may just do that one day…

Mama Lan, 8 The Pavement, SW4 0HY and Unit 18, Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8PR.