Ping Pong Liverpool Street
I wanted to love this place. I've been craving decent dumplings for so long that when I heard about Now Street Food opening a mere five minutes walk from my office I damn near wet my pants with excitement.
Alas, as with so many Chinese food experiences in London, it failed to live up to my expectations. I joined the lengthy queue of office workers lining up at the shiny new Now Street Food shopfront behind Liverpool St station, to order a vegetarian wonton soup and a vegetarian baozi (steamed bun), with a lemongrass jasmine iced tea to wash it down. Despite telling the counter girl I wanted to eat in, I was handed my food in a brightly coloured bag full of strange little boxes and assorted packaging. After taking my seat on one of the stools I unravelled the first box, which turned out to contain my steamed bun.
I am not normally the type to whinge about portion size. Good food is good food, it doesn't all have to be a supersized feast. But this steamed bun, far from being the fluffy pillow of delicious white dough I expected, was approximately the size of a ping pong ball. It tasted good enough, but at 1.20 for a tiny morsel of a bun, it bloody well ought to.
On to the wonton soup. While the broth was salty and satisfying, I'm afraid to say the wontons themselves were decidedly sub par. They fell apart at the merest nudge with a chopstick and contained a filling that tasted rather like the packet dumplings found in the back freezer of an Asian supermarket. The iced tea was, granted, rather nice, in a sugary sort of way, but nothing extraordinary. The whole thing rang rather false for a restaurant that markets itself as an authentic Asian street food experience. The food is the kind of safe, Westernised Chinese that tends to prevail in London, wrapped up in a slick black-and-pink package.
I'm sure this place will do very well. It has cute marketing and signage and serves safe "Asian" food that will appeal to the hungry East London lunchtime office crowd. But for the perfect dumplings I long for, well, I guess I'll have to keep looking.