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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Spring shopping in south London

Spring shopping in South London

It’s taken a while but the weather is definitely losing some of its edge and with the days getting brighter it’s time for a bit of a spring spruce up (pfft like we needed an excuse to shop).

There are some great gems sold by south London dwellers that will make easy additions to your home.

1) Clapham Bandstand Print, from £35 (unframed), Postcode Prints – we mentioned this local print company on our post about FEAST. Their limited edition prints are a cute and quirky way to illustrate the area and we’re particularly taken with this picture of Clapham.

2) West Norwood Tea Towel, £8, Ray Stanbrook Prints – we found this on Etsy, and there are tea towels for several other towns including Crystal Palace, Wimbledon and Brixton. Almost a bit too nice to use to dry your dishes, though…

3) Rob Ryan Bells Cushion, £30, Fred & Pickles – when splashing out on a new sofa isn’t an option. Fred & Pickles is a gorgeous boutique site run by a team in the Balham area.

4) Fridge magnet, £4.95, The Indigo Tree – spring clean your mind? Naff as it sounds, but we find that a good old mantra can help motivate you on a dreary day.

5) Candle, from £15, Charlotte Harley Candles – Hither Green based Charlotte sells beautiful soy wax scented candles through Etsy. The scent has a good throw and a great way to get a fresh fragrance into your home. Plus they’re way cheaper than your average posh candle.

Le Tour de France, Streatham

Le Tour de France shop sign, Streatham

Le Tour de France shop front, Streatham

Excuse us for using a phrase that’s been done to death but this literally is a hidden gem, a couple of streets away from Leigham Court Road and Valley Road.

bread and pastries at Le Tour de France Streatham

Bread and pastries are baked on site

Supermarkets offering a wider selection of cuisine and the spike in internet food shops mean places like this are losing some relevance but we find delicatessens and local shops great to browse in. No shelf is the same and the individuality is what makes local towns so great.

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Anyway, soapbox moment aside, Le Tour de France specialises in – you guessed it – French food and drink, with a nod to Belgian delicacies too; they stock Rochefort Belgian beer, little found in London town.

Trappistes rochforte stocked at le tour de france streatham

Find Belgian beer on the shelves in this French cafe

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All their pastries are proved and baked on site every day, and they also stock a decent variety of meats, cheese and tarts on counter too. As a nod to changing dietary requirements you’ll find dairy-free and vegan cake options on offer.

Their shelves are a multicolour of tins, bottles and packets of classic French food.

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The nicest touch for us was the artwork adorning the walls throughout the place – French, of course.

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We stayed for breakfast but we’ll be back to stock up the essentials (cheese and wine, ahem).

Croissant, Cappucino, apple and cinnamon tea and a pain au raisin

Croissant, Cappucino, apple and cinnamon tea and a pain au raisin

Le Tour de France, 135 Sunnyhill Road, SW16 2UW.

The Indigo Tree, Streatham High Road

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Streatham High Road isn’t one of the most visually appealing high streets in the world, but in the past couple of years a lot of money has been thrown at it.

Pawn shops and betting shops dominate the route but there are some more independent places popping up – The Indigo Tree is one of them.

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It’s quite similar to a typical Oliver Bonas in what it has to offer; soft furnishings, accessories, small gifts and cards are in abundance. It sells itself as a gift shop and it certainly fits the bill.

Plaques at the Indigo Tree, Streatham

You could easily find a gift for the hardest to please family member, and we reckon come Christmas time it’ll be a treasure trove for secret Santa pressies.

The Indigo Tree, Streatham

 

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It’s not the cheapest for items, with cards averaging at £2.99, and the smallest trinkets coming in at around £5. However it’s very reasonable for what it is; a family run shop on a busy high street that could well be just another newsagent or mini mart. Expect to pay the same as you would at somewhere like Not On The High Street, only without the P&P of course.

The Indigo Tree

We picked up this cute quotable fridge magnet for £5.95.

Fridge magnet from The Indigo Tree

It’s not just gifts and homewares The Indigo Tree has to offer either. They run regular skills workshops, from crafts to flower arranging. They also have space for pop-up stalls so keep your eyes peeled on their Facebook page for upcoming events.The Indigo Tree, Streatham

The Hamlet, Streatham High Road

A one minute walk from Streatham Hill station, we learnt a few facts upon entering The Hamlet; Streatham means the hamlet on the street, or ‘street ham’, hence the namesake of the town and bar. We visited over the Jubilee weekend and it was deserted. Yes, we chose bar dwelling over standing on Southbank in the drizzle to greet our Queen.

We stayed for lunch. A few thoughts on our experience:

*The service was wonderful. We were greeted by the owner, Elsa, who recognised us as new to the area (was it that obvious?). She asked our names and remembered them throughout our visit. Service may well be different when the place is packed to the rafters but we felt welcome and appreciated.

*The decor is quaint. Printed wallpaper on the ceiling, antique lampshades, squashy leather sofas. A very cosy setting for a leisurely drink – we felt right at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The drink selection is very spirits-based. If you like your cocktails you’re in for a treat. Ditto wine. The prices are competitive, but of course you can always take advantage of happy hour. Our daytime visit meant we stuck to draft beer, of which the range was limited. But it’s a bar, and the drinks selection reflects that.

*We ordered roast beef, plus sausages and mash. The roast came with courgettes as a side veg – a very odd addition (we’re a big carrot/pea/parsnip with our roast, though). The meat was thinly sliced and the meal was ‘ok’, but like beer, certainly not their strength. The sausages were plump and tasty (gristle-free) but the mash was a little salty. For the price we paid (around £10 per meal) it was a little disappointing. We haven’t tried their dinner menu, so we can’t comment on that – it could arguably be a lot tastier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We won’t be put off, though. We can tell The Hamlet has its strengths – it prides itself on its DJ and other social entertainment, so we’ll be back soon for a stiff cocktail and a mixed sharing platter to feast over.