International xiao long bao hypemaster Din Tai Fung looks set to finally expand its London restaurant portfolio, adding to its Covent Garden restaurant with an opening at one of the city’s most famous department stores, Selfridges. The group, best known for its delicately pleated, plump soup dumplings, has filed a licensing application for the premises with Westminster Council, taking over the space formerly occupied by The Selfridges Kitchen, as rumoured by Propel.
Din Tai Fung always planned to have two London restaurants, but the first never got off the ground. It was long slated for an opening at Centre Point, the now somewhat cursed dining development — not at all aided by the COVID-19 pandemic — which is hoping for a revival when JKS Restaurants reopen Arcade Food Hall in January next year. The Covent Garden restaurant, the one that actually opened, was meant to be the second arrival, then it became the first.
In December 2018, the chain cited its perception of London as a “foodie capital of the world” as reason for its focus on the city; an opening in a gilded department store, ahead of a fully fledged second restaurant, suggests that the last eighteen months have chastened its ambition somewhat. Selfridges will offer both an iconic address and a captive audience, less the self-fulfilling prophecy of four-to-five hour queues that formed outside its Covent Garden restaurant in November and December 2018. That overwhelming popularity stemmed not just from its international reputation for translucent, brimming, quality xiao long bao — are rare find in a city of many dumplings — but its delicate balance between being a brand new arrival as much as, for many Londoners, a taste of home.