What can you tell us about Duddell's?
The restaurant originally hails from Hong Kong, where it's picked up a loyal following and two Michelin stars to boot. Here in London the kitchen is being headed up by Daren Liew, who was previously Executive Sous Chef with the Hakkasan Group and has spent time in Hong Kong learning about Duddell's in the run up to opening in London.
Where is it?
Right next door to London Bridge station and opposite Guy's Hospital. It's in a Grade II listed building that also hosts the Operating Theatre museum so it's a pretty impressive looking space. The main restaurant is a double height structure with mezzanine seating on two sides looking down over the main restaurant. There's plenty of light coming through both the main stained glass window and the higher windows on the mezzanine, giving the whole room an light and airy feel.
As for the look of the room, it mixes the classic structure with a tastefully modern update (apparently the design of the huge chandeliers were only agreed by National Heritage on the fourth attempt - they're clearly a little on the picky side...).
Where should we go for a drink first?
We do sometimes struggle in this part of town - although expect that to change when more of the extensive revamping of London Bridge is complete. Just a few steps down the road from Duddell's is The Shard - so you could pop up to Aqua for a quick cocktail and a view. Alternatively Borough Market is just across the road, so you could take your pick of places there too.
How about Duddell's, is there a bar?
There is a small bar at the front of the restaurant - and shortly after opening there will be 10 stools around the main bar area. At that point, it's well worth popping in for a pre-dinner drink here too. Cocktails are around the £12 mark. We didn't actually try any on our lunchtime visit - but they sound quite enticing with many influences from the local area (there's a teeny story for each drink).
For example, we like the sound of the St Thomas Antidote which is influenced by the theatre upstairs. That's Opihr gin, benedictine, Cointreau, the all-important Chinese five spice (medicinal qualities, you see) and egg white.
On top of that, there are four mocktails - and combining that with the tea menu, there is plenty available if you're off the alcohol.
And any bar snacks?
There are a few short items on the list - including one which we're absolutely going to have to return for. That's the foie gras beef on toast (£12). The truffle spring roll (£8) also sounds decent and we saw a lot of people ordering the day glo Yin Yang prawn dish (£16). So even if you're passing, popping in for a quick bite should be well worth it.
Where should we sit?
The prime spots seem to be the big booths at the front and rear of the restaurant - the one at the back being particularly recommended if you're up for a bit of privacy. Otherwise grabbing a table for four may be a good bet - that way you can fill as much space as possible with the dishes. You will need the space. And we did like the seats on the mezzanine overlooking the main restaurant - so if downstairs is full, head for those next.
And what about the menu?
Let's start with the dim sum menu first. Available at lunch only, it takes on the usual format - check what you want on the paper menu and wait for the onslaught of dishes. Everything is between £7 and £9 a dish, with the Iberico char siu chueng fun (£8) a definite winner and we watched a number of the crispy char siu buns (£7) sail past us all lunchtime too. We didn't have them, but many of the steamed dumplings looked very tempting - including the black pepper duck pumpkin dumpling (£7) and the Imperial king crab and prawn dumpling (£7).
What about a dumpling fix at dinner?
For that, you'll want to order the Cantonese dim sum symphony (£16) which features some of the best seafood dumplings on the menu. There are two each of a jade leaf king crab dumpling, scallop and prawn dumpling and the most impressive one - the goldfish-shaped (and coloured) prawn dumpling. Expect to see that on quite a few Instagram accounts.
As for the rest of the a la carte?
It's split into the chef's recommendations, appetizers, soup, seafood, meat and poultry, vegetables and rice. Prices are on the high end - so expect most of the appetizers to be in the teens and mains mainly in the mid to late twenties. While we dearly would have loved to work our way through most of the menu - we tried to have something from most of the sections. With that in mind, highlights on our visit were:
- XO beef shin with sea vegetables (£12, on the appetizers) - beautiful cubes of slow-cooked beef served cold, a standout dish to look at and taste
- The monkfish with morel mushrooms, garlic shoots and crispy dough (£28, in the seafood section)
- The Cantonese crispy salted chicken (£23, on the specials) - hard to eat, it's cleavered with all the bones in, but worth the effort
- Stir-fried baby pak choi in garlic (£9, on the veg section)
- Truffle and scallop egg white fried rice (£14 on the rice and noodles section) - maybe our favourite rice dish EVER.
And should we leave room for dessert?
Frankly speaking, desserts in Chinese restaurants can sometimes be a bit hit or miss, even when the rest of the meal is a knockout. Thankfully the desserts at Duddell's remain firmly in the former category.
We first went for the deconstructed creme brulée with dried tangerine skin, and mandarin on a slim ginger break biscuit perched on the side. But the winner of this course went to the Szechuan pepper pineapple - which came with frozen vanilla baked yoghurt, kataifi and pineapple sorbet.
How about drinks?
There's a healthy wine list which starts around the £30-£34 mark. We opted for glasses only and can certainly recommend the South African blanc de mer Riesling blend for £9.50 (glasses start at £7.50 for 175 ml). But if you're pushing the boat out, there's a lot for you to choose from here too. Not least the Chateau Mouton Rothschild section where prices start at £850 and head upwards to £1650 for a bottle of 1962 Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillan Bordeaux.
We had high hopes for Duddell's as its Hong Kong reputation preceded it. And those hopes have been easily met. Here you can expect an expertly delivered Chinese menu that offers more than enough different elements to make it worth your attention, together with staff running like clockwork despite it being such early days and a truly wonderful looking room.
A welcome Hong Kong import and a great addition to the London Bridge/Borough dining scene.
Hot Dinners were invited to Duddell's. Prices are correct at the time of writing.
More about Duddell's
Where is it? 9a St Thomas Street, Southwark, London SE1 9RY
How to book: Call 020 3957 9932 or book online.