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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Reviewed: Brunch at Lavish Habit

Every time a shop shuts in Balham we wait with baited breath for what will replace it. The replacement of M&S Simply Food and Woolworths with identikit bargain shops (don’t get us wrong, there is definitely a time and a place for them but three in one town? Bit overkill) led us to think this was a growing theme with our empty shops.

Lavish Habit combines good food and the best of shopping; a cosy, calm environment and items you instantly start mentally placing in your home. It reminds us of that old coffee shop chain that used to change its merchandise every month under a different theme. The naff navy/yellow colour way and same-old drinks menu left a lot to be desired, though.

There’s nothing uniform about Lavish Habit; the chairs are mis-matched, as are the tea cups. Every detail has been thought through but it doesn’t look too try-hard. If you’re not keen on slightly wobbly tables and having to share space with strangers, it might not be your thing. We embraced it – and even swapped newspapers with our neighbour once we were done with our Saturday morning read.

The shop:  Beyond the main room is the garden area, splashed with bold colours to perk any dreary British weather conditions, plus downstairs lies a den of vintage treats akin to rummaging through your Grandma’s loft. Products aren’t cheap; expect to pay high prices for original vintage furniture, boutique-style gifts and new clothing. However it’s a pleasure to browse through the well thought out shop and a treat to buy. We really like the cute birthday cards they sell there – understated and at competitive prices to mainstream high street shops.

The food: LH’s brunch menu is modest yet varying; whether you’re dieting or after a carb fix, there’s something for you. We opted for a cheese and ham croissant, and pancakes with honey, yogurt and berries. Together with tea and coffee cost around £12, it’s brilliant value for the healthy portion sizes – there’s no scrimping on any ingredients.

This post is a lot longer than we intended but it just goes to show how much Lavish Habit has to offer. Part of the charm is that every time we’ve visited there’s new merchandise and as well as the classic brunch dishes, there are menu changes in alignment to the seasons. Any excuse to keep going back for more…

Enq: Lavish Habit, 75 Bedford Hill, SW12 9HA.