Din Tai Fung is London’s most hyped restaurant opening of 2018. That much is indisputable. The Taiwanese chain’s opening was first rumoured in autumn 2017; news of not one, but two Din Tai Fung London openings soon followed; Covent Garden was confirmed as the first, and that long-awaited dumpling opening date came just weeks ago; the chain revealed exactly why London is its first city for European expansion, before cannily “predicting” five-hour queues on opening day.
Updates have been met, consistently, with a social media fanfare, particularly on Facebook and Instagram.
In addition to a first look inside, here’s everything there is to know about the first London DTF.
- Din Tai Fung was founded in 1958 but didn’t sell dumplings until the 1970s. Before that, it was a cooking oil retailer. It has locations in Asia, Australia, North America, and now Europe with London being their first restaurant in the region. The London expansion is being directed by the Singapore based BreadTalk Group.
- The brand is famous for its precision xiao long baos, each one requiring 18 pleats which are hand made by technicians who can go through a year of training before they are allowed to make dumplings for customers. This attention to detail led to their first Hong Kong branch being awarded a Michelin star in 2010; it currently has a Michelin bib gourmand, together with a second branch in that city.
- The London branch will open with a reduced menu compared to other outposts but customer favourites like the pork chop rice, chicken soup, and beef noodles are present on the current menu.
- The menu is unapologetically pork heavy with very few concessions or changes to suit perceived European tastes. The one exception seems to be the dark chocolate and red bean xiao long bao which thankfully omits the Hershey filling found in the Dubai version for French chocolate of unnamed origin.
- Din Tai Fung expect queues of 4-5 hours during peak times with potential diners being informed by text when their table will be ready. Inside they can expect to see all the cooks on show preparing all the dumplings from scratch inside a large Perspex box which wouldn’t look out of place on a TV gameshow. A cavernous room surrounds the central space and houses a lower ground floor with vast numbers of seats, an army of heavily drilled front of house staff and décor from your favourite gambling city dining hall.
- The Covent Garden restaurant on Henrietta Street is the first of two planned in the first wave of openings for the group. Another, next year, will arrive at Centre Point, on Tottenham Court Road.
- Dishes to order: xiao long baos (shrimp; chicken; prawn and angled gourd); chicken soup; beef noodle soup with braised Brisket; fried rice with shrimp and eggs; all the fried things if sitting at the bar (of course). (Pick between five and six.)
More soon, of course.