Shikumen in Shepherd’s Bush Sets The Standard

23 Sep 2016

An horrific £5 all-you-can-eat buffet experience in Chinatown, with washing-up bowls full of sweet and sour god-knows-what in a restaurant’s extended walk-in prison cell, was enough to put me off the cuisine for quite some time, but luckily I’m armed with a strong stomach and the forgiveness of a saint, so I was willing to put the horrors of the past swiftly behind me when the invite of the temptation of dim-sum in Shepherds Bush, at a particularly swanky place, entered my inbox.

On the hottest day in September, entering Shikumen was like opening the doors into an air-conditioned temple and sitting down at the table of Li-Ching: Gatekeeper of heaven. My lunch date was being held at White City on the Central Line so I sat there drooling over the pages in the menu, polishing off a litre of water and assuring the kind and attractive waiter that I wasn’t being stood up and didn’t require a substitute date (yeah, thanks London transport you’ve made me blush).

If it weren’t for the red lanterns and chopsticks on the table, this could have been any type of fine dining experience, the tiled floor, dark wood and spectacular reception area were exceptionally finished off and even though the restaurant was big enough to fit a few coach loads of people, the dim lighting and space between your table and the next ensured no intimacy was lost between.. well, me, myself and I for now.

My friend finally arrived and in a hurried frenzy of excitement and joy I launched the menu under her nose and we picked out a bottle of house white quicker than any normal person can say ‘I’ll have the house white’.

Since me and my BFF have about as much decorum as a pair of monkeys in a zoo, we picked out our favourite pieces from across the menus, with little thought or consideration as to whether they went together or not and started on the vibrant and tropical 2015, Gran Hacienda, Sauvignon Blanc (£21.90).

Their signature dim sum, a selection of 5 Star Shikumen Xiao Long Bao (£12.80), a class of five different coloured parcels of steamed fish and meat were packages of pure flavour, with the seafood and black truffle definitely playing teacher’s pet.

The Spicy Singapore noodles with seafood (£9.50) had about as much flavour as a librarian’s cardigan but the prawns and calamari were cooked to perfection. Luckily the waiter’s recommendation of Fresh Prawn Cheung Fun (£5.20) had enough flavour for both the dishes and I can’t pretend the noodles weren’t finished off, making a nice sideshow.

Sheepishly, we also ordered a Sweet and Sour Corn-fed Chicken (£10.90) but when it arrived at the table crowned with a circle of melon, we were more than pleased we’d gone for this classic, they’d turned this mainstream frog of a dish into an exceptionally handsome prince.

In an experience polar opposite to the Chinatown horror show from my past, Shikumen is one I can look back on fondly. Fit for any kind of special occasion it’s got no skeletons in its closet and the only thing hiding downstairs in the basement is a glance at the clinically clean kitchen and some swanky water closets to powder your nose.


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