For those who’ve not been to a Ping Pong restaurant before, the people behind the brand took the Chinese tradition of ‘yum cha’ – tea and dumplings – then added cocktails in for good measure. Their ninth tea and cocktail bar with an impressive central dim sum counter can now be found on the second floor at Westfield Stratford City.
Ping Pong serves authentic dim sum on an industrial scale, all handmade in their kitchens. It’s an international chain which has franchises all over the world. If you’re looking for a casual dim sum meal in a relaxed and ambient environment then give Ping Pong a try.
Ping Pong have launched their new seasonal menu which is available until early April. It’s one of many here and there really is something for every taste, palate and dietary need. From set menus with their contents calorie-counted to seasonal specials, suppers for vegetarians, special-priced lunch and sharing menus. There’s even the option to order online in four of their restaurants to take the pain out of any wait.
You place your order on a pre-printed menu by ticking boxes against item you’d like. Your food arrives in a large stack, all at once.
We arrive at around 8pm and the atmosphere is busy, busy and full of young couples, after-workers and friends just meeting for a catch-up.
Here at Westfield Stratford City, there’s a wall of steam and at the centre of it, you’ll find the chef preparing baskets of buns and dumplings. With so much choice here in the Mall, you could taste your way around the world, but if it’s theatre you’re after then head straight for Ping Pong where you can sit at the bar and watch the chef cook your food to order.
If you’ve never eaten this kind of food before Ping Pong is the ideal venue to start. The introduction on the menu to the edamame dish or Maudou explained that you needed to eat the celery-salted beans and discard the pods, (not everyone’s eaten soya beans) and the small bowl for £2.65 were steamed to perfection.
The crispy squid is part of the ‘seasonal specials’ section and for £6.25 we got a good-sized sharing portion. It was a real shame that they were over-cooked, all the same, we were starving and scoffed the lemongrass and chilli Sichuan dusted bites, the portion came with a spicy mango dipping sauce
Another seasonal dish is the pork and mushroom sticky rice dumplings £3.85. These Shanghainese rice dumplings were full of shiitake mushroom, ham hock and spring onion in a transparent wheat flour pastry.
When they use the word ‘glutinous’ at Ping Pong, they mean it, attempting to rescue dumplings from their greaseproof paper base became a fun game for me and my dining companion, Kate. I ended up leaving the chopsticks to one side and using my hands, the chopsticks cut into the reluctant-to-shift dumplings and spill their fillings.
The worst culprits were the black prawn dumplings £4.25 which looked like a work of art before I got to work on them. The filling made up for the retrieval as I took a bite into large garlic flavoured prawns.
Chilli oil, chilli sauce and soy sauce are free and are a welcome addition to what could be a rather bland experience and there are three more dipping sauces plum, sweet chilli and chinkiang chilli bean you can add for 95p each.
The spicy chicken dumplings are filled with chicken, vegetables, chilli and wrapped in translucent pastry, this a spicy dish as the menu suggested, £3.65.
My favourite had to be the seafood dumplings stuffed with snow crab, prawn and carrot and parcelled up in carrot pastry, £3.75.
We thought we should order some more green stuff and ordered a portion of broccoli (£2.95) which had indeed been steamed, a little too much for my taste, and sprinkled with celery salt.
The pork and mushroom sticky rice dumplings £3.85, were delicious
The trio of crispy prawn balls were deep-fried and served with fish sauce £4.25. The noodles held on to the oil, as I think you can see from the picture, but nonetheless were eaten by us both.
The duck spring rolls came highly recommended from our table-next-door friends and were exactly as expected these come with a saucer of hoi sin, £3.95.
The restaurant suggest ordering between 4 and 5 dishes each but we started off small with the option to add.
The vegetable buns (£3.25) had a fluffy fresh-bread exterior with various kinds of vegetables, another suggestion from the table next door and as one was a vegetarian, I had to agree with their verdict that it was “one of the best they’d tried”.
If you’re on a budget, keep an eye on what you order, it’s great fun ticking the menu but the bill soon adds up.
The cocktail list was really varied and the prices easy-on-the-wallet. My Flaming Passion Fruit martini was excellent value for money at £6.95 4-year old Flor de Cana Rum was shaken with Bacardi and fresh passion fruit. Half a fruit was scooped free of fruit and added to the drink, the hard shell carried more rum and was set on fire.
If you fancy a rare or gourmet tea there are plenty of those too including scented, yellow, white and green and chocolate black tea. There are flowering teas, herbal infusions and iced teas. Soft drinks are interesting too from fresh lemonade and juices to the usual sparkling drinks.
I absolutely loved the chocolate coconut fondant, a perfect sharing portion if you want that hit of sweet, £4.45.
For those on special diets, such as, gluten-free, or can’t have nuts, Ping Pong have thought of you take a look on their website prior to visiting.
If you want a meal to last well into the night, then this probably isn’t for you, Ping Pong is the kind of place you pop in, eat and leave. Lazy Sum-Days are an opportunity to linger for a bit longer. Each Sunday there’s a Sum-Day menu and for £21.95 looks like great value for money, even better if you arrive between 12 and 1pm to get a complimentary cocktail. More details of this and other offers can be found on their website.
Regular visitors can enjoy the benefits of a loyalty scheme where members are the first to know about special offers, competitions and news
To check out their current offers and to find your nearest Ping Pong visit their website http://www.pingpongdimsum.com/. Unfortunately it’s not listed on the Westfield Stratford City site but I can assure you it’s definitely there.
We were guests of Ping Pong.