Classic sixties architecture meets Asian sophistication at London’s Din Tai Fung
By Scott Manson
Once described as “one of the finest examples of Brutalist architecture in London and beyond,” the city’s Centre Point tower seemed doomed to never fill its potential as a beacon of optimism in the post-war capital. But in recent years, as the surrounding area has developed, with huge futuristic venues such as the neighbouring Outernet springing up, Centre Point has also had a modern makeover.
For gastronomes, this brought the exciting news of the arrival of the iconic Chinese restaurant chain Din Tai Fung’s latest London outpost, located in the heart of Centre Point. This culinary gem, renowned for its xiao long bao (steamed pork soup dumplings), has seamlessly blended swinging 60s flair, a homage to the era of Centre Point’s construction, with traditional Asian elegance. The restaurant stands out not only for its cuisine but also for its unique bar area, a first for the Din Tai Fung group, offering panoramic views across one of central London’s newest public spaces, set against a chic backdrop of powder pink banquettes and polished brass.
Upon entering, I was immediately struck by the scale of the space. Occupying two floors, the restaurant is housed in a stunning glass bridge-like structure with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer great views on both sides. The interior, a tasteful nod to Centre Point’s Brutalist architecture, is elegantly adorned with 60s-inspired decor and Asian touches. It’s a far cry from the bustling streets of nearby Chinatown, smarter and slicker but just as authentic when it comes to the dining experience.
The dining experience was augmented by the presence of cute robot waiters – a futuristic touch that intrigued me although, in truth, they seemed more of a hindrance than help to the waiting staff. Settling into the separate bar area, I tried one of their signature cocktails, the “Tai” – a mix of citrus-infused Patrón Silver tequila, pineapple juice, lime juice, agave syrup and honey. It was a sharp, invigorating drink that perfectly set the stage for the culinary delights that followed.
Din Tai Fung’s fame rests heavily on its dumplings. Each one, I learned, takes 40 minutes of hand preparation by dedicated chefs – some of whom can be seen in the central open kitchen rolling, spooning and crimping hundreds of these soupy treasures.
The ritual of eating the dumplings is almost ceremonial: gently placed in a ceramic spoon, punctured to release the broth, and then savoured with a topping of ginger and a dip into the sauce. The pork bao, chilli crab and pork, and the mushroom and truffle were particularly noteworthy for their rich, intricate flavours.
The menu, however, offered much more than just dumplings. The honey and vinegar short ribs, served cold, were an interesting twist, while the crispy fried chicken was a standout. The vegetable jiao zi, crescent-shaped dumplings popular at Chinese Lunar New Year, and the classic prawn and pork shao mai, were delightful with the dipping sauce.
This is a place you come for the eating, I’d suggest, rather than the vibe. It’s a good space with a wonderful view, but like many of London’s busy Chinese restaurants, it doesn’t invite post-prandial lingering. Eat some amazing food, then get out and enjoy all the capital has to offer because, like Din Tai Fung, it holds surprise and delight at every turn.