I was intrigued by Fu Manchu after first discovering it back in April when The Handbook covered its launch and was excited to be able to finally head down to see it in person. Fu Manchu is a trendy dim sum restaurant that popped up in the railway arches by Clapham North station. The face of the venue’s villainous namesake, Fu Manchu, looms perilously on the wall over guests as they enter, and although the venue is relatively small, the high archways give the impression of a much more spacious area.
I’m not normally a fan of open brickwork but it in this case I enjoyed the simple décor, the bar occupies one side of the wall whilst the tables are situated opposite and the whole place has a nice, relaxed feel. We sat at the far end of the restaurant, where the most light was coming in from the skylights and got started on their cocktail list. My favourite was the Kiss of Death (Woodford Reserve Bourbon shaken with St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, homemade star anise syrup, fresh blackberries and lemon juice covered with ‘Kiss of Death’ foam). Manchu’s Mind Control is not one to take lightly and the mix of mango, guava and lime juice served with a healthy dose of the Doctor’s own secret recipe was too strong for my tastes (although I didn’t enjoy the flaming sugar cube in a half lime it came served with).
Our waitress was a total delight and guided us through the menu which suggests 1 item each from their baked, fried and salad/soup sections and 2 from their steamed section – more food can easily be ordered as you go but this makes for a good starting point. You are given a score card and a pencil to fill out how many items of each dish you would like. It was explained to us that this method was the easiest way to order due to the complicated pronunciations of many of the items, Shui Jing Jai Gow for example (lucky for me too, as that was one of the dishes I ordered).
My favourite thing from the savoury menu was easily Nan Gua Sa or sweet pumpkin puffs, the flaky pastry double over the delicious insides which were sweet to the extent that sweet potato is, so definitely not a dessert type. Cha Sui Su (honey BBQ pork) and Yung Rou Su (sweet spiced mutton) complete the solid trio of baked items available. We didn’t choose anything from the salad side although the Crispy Duck was recommended. The steamed section is where to put your attention and where you can get your 2 items, it’s also the main focus as Fu Manchu is primarily a dim sum restaurant. I love the texture of Bao buns, not quite bread, not quite dumplings – Tofu Jai Bao was my favourite, stuffed with tofu and mushrooms.
The pudding list is relatively small with only 4 dishes but that’s all they need, trust me. Jin Deui and Jai Lai Wong Bao are both deep fried and stuffed with custard, the only difference being that the former is smaller and covered in sesame seeds, the latter has a slightly different dough too, more like fluffy bao buns. Ok, so maybe there a few differences but the important things are the same, the delicious crispy outside and scrumptious, gooey inside. Both dishes come in portions of 3 which makes it tricky to divide if you go in a couple (I had 2 obviously whilst he had the remainder). The chilled mango pudding topped with vanilla ice cream was simple but filled with flavour and certainly not a dish to be dismissed.
My whole experience was enjoyable and Fu Manchu can’t be faulted, for date night it was ideal yet we spied a pulpit with music equipment attached which serves as a DJ booth for when the venue turns into a late night cocktail bar with the tables in the middle cleared to make way for the dance floor – all under the watchful eye of Fu Manchu of course.