Review: Lan Kwai Fong, Chalk Farm Road

The latest contender in a spot that changes hands way too frequently. Is this one for keeps?

The interior of Lan Kwai Fong

Why doesn’t this attractive landmark venue on Chalk Farm Road ever seem to work? That’s the question we ponder as we take a seat in what’s surely its third or fourth incarnation of late. And we should know – our office is directly opposite.

Its previous contender, short-lived dim sum joint Tam Ting, lasted just a few months, and before that it was the curious Bam Panda, an underwhelming mash-up of Italian trattoria, tourist spot and Asian sharing-plate specialist. (Yep, for real.)

A couple of months earlier it was the truly dire Thames Restaurant, a sort of 1970s-themed buffet horror that understandably closed after two weeks or something. And – deep breath – before that it reigned supreme as Silks & Spices for 20 years. You’ll remember that one.

This latest reincarnation – named after the popular going-out area in Hong Kong – continues what its recent theme: dim sum, pad thai and more, with sushi and sashimi chucked in for good measure (let’s hope there’s a multi-talented chef in the kitchen). Not so different from previous incarnation Tam Ting, then – although it now has different owners, confirms the waiter slightly gruffly, as we take our seats.

Basket of dim sum at Lan Kwai Fong
Basket of dim sum. Photo: Stephen Emms
The interior is not unattractive: contemporary chairs, bottle green banquettes, boxed pendant lighting. And, as with all the venues this side of the street, a pavement terrace catches the afternoon – sometimes with a vengeance.

What to eat? You could start, as we do, with the signature dish (a steep £12), wasabi jumbo prawns: for the price tag, however, you get just four of the briny critters, so no matter how juicy they are, with their shouty kick of wasabi and glistening crown of roe, it doesn’t feel like a total win.

A side of broccoli (£7) is steamed al dente, with slippery shitake mushrooms, but compromised by a sticky, gloopy sauce that rather turns us off. And a portion of deep fried squid is another oh-so-average choice, the battered tentacles overdone and not at all rescued by a generic chilli sauce.

Best dish is a bamboo basket of dim sum, forgotten about from our order but eventually arriving, after much prompting, as we have to rush for a train from St Pancras. We just manage to wolf down the boiling hot dumplings, light and elastic – some almost falling apart – with tenderish fillings of prawn, sea bass and fennel, pork and vegetable.

The verdict? It’s not the worst option if you’re in Camden, but with the rise and rise of the Market’s everso foodie tenants opposite, the truth is it’s absolutely not one of the best, either.

This is box title
Lan Kwai Fong, plates £3-12, 27 Chalk Farm Rd NW1

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