Monday, October 29, 2007

Ping Pong

Ping Pong opened the last year I was with my old company, and we had our departmental Christmas dinner at the original branch opposite the London Palladium. It was packed solid, and I remember it was difficult to get a booking. I had the day off due to moving into my new home that day and met my shortly to be ex-colleagues for what was a very fun evening, with delicious, madly affordable food served in a gorgeous setting. My boss managed to give me no sign I was to be unfairly dismissed right after Christmas.

My fondness for Ping Pong survived this incident and I went back with my now ex-colleagues (minus the boss) for a catch-up about 6 months later, after the legal wrangling was completed. Again, it was fun.

And in the last few months, I have been back twice, with very different crowds – once with my houseguests in the summer, after a performance of “The Sound of Music” at the Palladium, and last week with my brother and the niece and nephew after our Royal Society lecture.

Both visits were great. I think my older guests enjoyed themselves – the Jasmine tea is always a show-stopper – and they are the type of older visitors who appreciate an experience of ‘trendy’ London. The dim sum were duly demolished while friendly banter was exchanged with a couple down from the North at our communal table.

Professional critics have sniffily compared Ping Pong to Hakkasan and Yauatcha. I have yet to go to Hakkasan but I’ve been to Yauatcha and I think the Ping Pong dim sum stand up very well, considering Ping Pong is aiming at a completely different market: mostly the post work crowd; with the dim sum hoovering up excess alcohol consumption.

The trip to the new branch at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank was a wonderful half-term family treat. We arrived just after 8pm, me thinking innocently that there would be a lull as punters left for performances at the Hall. Ha ha ha. The place was hopping, with a queue snaking out the door. We were told we had a half-hour wait but would shortly be moved into a bar area. I asked if the kids could have a snack while they waited, and my brother started complaining we couldn’t wait 30 minutes with the children ‘at this hour’. I mentioned there was an EAT around the corner – but my nephew bridled at this (EAT is clearly their default pit stop in Cambridge). Also, he had spotted the Chinese script on the ceiling and wanted more.

We were asked to hang on for 5 minutes and a table was magicked up for us. I was really impressed they even bothered, considering they had flocks of people to spare. Service was brilliant and slick, and the dim sum arrived smartly. Stand-outs were the Har Gau and the squid in satay sauce. The Jasmine tea blew the children away – my little nephew thought it was an alien pod hatching.

The dim sum are keenly priced for such a glam atmosphere – the most expensive item is £3.99: each menu item comes with 3 portions, allowing easy sharing. My nephew had a series of lemonades with fruit ‘shooters’ – these were as phenomenally beautiful as the jasmine tea. My brother and I stuck to G&Ts – quite fabulously delicious. These were Tanqueray but on a completely different plane to others I have had recently. 3 G&Ts = half the bill for 4 (12 courses) : £67 including service.

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