Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Mr. Lau's - Dim Sum Bar

I have visited friends that live in Manchester a couple of times now but this was a little different.
My good friends Wing, Sybil and their baby son, Isaac are going to be leaving at the end of September. They will be moving to Singapore permanently.
I have been very busy with work and due to that, I was only able to take 2 days off so I did a 24hour thing in Manchester just to catch them for a couple of hours to say goodbye.
Another good friend of mine, Bryan lives near Manchester so it only made sense to meet him and Dan while I was in the area. They were very kind to offer me a place to stay for the night too.

I arrived on the Sunday afternoon at Manchester where I was met by Bryan and Dan. We decided to go to Mr. Lau's, in Warrington, for dinner as Dan had been there before and said it was quite nommy (yes, this is a word...ahem).
They claim to be a premier dim sum bar so naturally I was excited to going here and hopefully taste some pretty darn good dim sum, maybe with a modern twist.

Date of Visit: 31/08/14

As we arrived pretty early, the place was not really that busy but I did notice that they had one large party already in and were expecting another large party too. A waiter/barman greeted us and took us to the table closest to the open kitchen. 

The open kitchen. This is how dark our table was. Please excuse person in the corner there!

He came back later to take our drink orders and we didn't see him for a while after that. We never got handed any a la carte menus so we automatically assumed it was just the dim sum menu, which was already on our tables, that we had to order from. We waited for a good while after ticking the boxes and it seemed like we had been forgotten about until the bar man finally came with our drinks. It looked like he was by himself at the bar so I could understand why our drinks took time but the other waiters in our area didn't even look at our table until we asked the bar man if there was a way to order food. Even he seemed surprised that we had not had our orders taken yet. 
We were given a little bucket of prawn crackers to nibble on as we waited some more.
Once the order was put through there was still a bit of a wait for the food - hardly surprising as the kitchen was starting to get very busy as the restaurant was filling up.

Our order was:
Salt and pepper cashew nuts
Vietnamese prawn crackers
Salt and pepper chicken wings
Salt and pepper tofu
Ap gau (Duck Dumplings)
Wor tip (pan fried meat dumplings)
Ap goon (Duck spring rolls)
Char Sui buns (chinese roast pork buns)
Custard buns
Char Sui Cheung fun
Har gau (Prawn Dumplings)
Prawn toast

In my experience with dim sum, it has always been a pretty quick affair - yum cha (directly translated as "drink tea" because people would usually have several dim sum dishes to accompany their tea) is such a popular thing during peak times that the food usually comes out pretty fast due to the copious amount of preparation the chef(s) will have done. 
I spoke to the owner of a chinese restaurant not that long ago and he has one dim sum chef, hired from Hong Kong specifically to do the dim sum in his restaurant. The chef starts at 6am every morning to start on his mise en place, ready for doors opening at 12pm. Dim sum sessions finish at around 4pm but the dim sum chef doesn't go home until 6-7pm. 

As soon as we gave the order to the waitress, she came to tell us the Vietnamese crackers were complimentary and that we were already given them so we should order something else. The crackers in front of us were NOT Vietnamese crackers, I know because I use Vietnamese crackers in my own restaurant. Bryan said nothing and just ordered something else and when we looked over to see a different kind of prawn crackers being dished out, we knew that those were the Vietnamese crackers. The waitress must have got them mixed up but at this point we just wanted ur food so badly that there was no point in getting angry at some prawn crackers. Although the question I had was: If the Vietnamese crackers were already complimentary then why have them on the dim sum order then?

We got most of our dim sum after a little wait and was then told that there were no custard buns left! Yes, I was really gutted because if I'm honest, their dim sum menu was pretty limited - considering that they claim to be a dim sum bar. I'm guessing the limited menu saves confusing people who have never had dim sum before but the whole point of having dim sum when I was in HK was because there was so much choice that there would bound to be something for everyone.

Had to put on the flash and edit this photo, it was after I had seen this that I realised what the food actually looked like.

I settled for the beef balls and reminded the waiter that there was still the ap gau to still come.
We ate as we waited on the other dishes and I must admit, I was not that impressed. I am not expecting dim sum to be exactly like the ones in HK but I expect them to be somewhat similar or have their own twist on it.

What it actually looked like in front of us.

Cheung Fun is normally one of my favourites but the actual Cheung fun itself at Mr. Lau's had a very soft texture, whereas the ones I'm used to, have more of a little bounce. The char sui in my Cheung fun was very fatty, not sure if it was meant to be like that. 

Cheung Fun

Har gow had a bit of a tough pastry (it most likely came out of the steamer first while it waited on the other dishes and had hardened a little when it came in contact with the air) and there wasn't the nice little parcel shapes that I am used to having, however the taste was pretty spot on.
All the salt and pepper dishes were well seasoned, especially the cashews. I could see myself eating a whole bowl of that in front of a telly!

Beef balls came, still no ap gau. I did notice that the friendly waiter had asked the kitchen several times about the ap gau so it wasn't like they weren't trying.
Bryan tried the beef balls first and said to me it tasted of nothing, which I thought, "no way".
But he was right. It tasted of nothing. I couldn't even taste the beef! There were 4 in that steamer and after me and Bryan had one each, we left the rest.

The ap goon was okay but I was struggling to find any ap in that goon.

Wor tip had good flavours but I couldn't help but think they had over fried the dumplings as they were crispy all the way around but I will credit them for not making the pastry chewy as that is what tends to happen to wor tip when they are over fried.

I was slightly worried that we had ordered too much food (those of you who go to yum cha, don't tell me you haven't over ordered before) but some of their portions were not very big so it was actually enough for us. 

By the time we finished our dishes, the ap gau was still no where to be seen. We asked the waitress to cancel that dish as we had waited too long and were no longer wanting it. The manager informed us that it was ready so we had it packed for us to take away. 
We had the feeling that we were constantly being neglected compared to other tables. We noticed during our meal that as soon as the table next to us were sat down, they were handed proper menus as well as the dim sum menu. Why didn't we get a la carte menus? It probably wasn't intentional but it doesn't make them look good when they give all - but one table - menus!

The manager did do something as a goodwill gesture because she knew we weren't impressed, which was very kind of her because we hadn't even put in a complaint. 
When we did get served, the waiters were all polite and friendly.

They have a very extensive cocktail menu - this baffled me as to why more effort seemed to have gone in to the cocktail menu than the Dim Sum menu. 
I ordered a virgin cocktail - Mango Twist - which was beautifully done so I could imagine this place being good for nights out.

Mango Twist

Overall, it isn't a bad place but it was an unfortunate visit for myself and friends. The lighting is very dim where we sat (as the photos will show) so it was difficult to see much of the food that was put in front of us. 
Nice decor, LOVE the large lampshades. The lighting in there would make it a great cocktail bar venue.

I would probably want to venture in to China Town in Manchester the next time I am there - just so I could compare. My advice for those who want to pay Mr. Lau a visit: If you are not handed a main menu, ask for one! I checked out some of their photos and menu on their website afterwards and it would have been nice to have the option of ordering something from the main menu as some of it sounded/looked pretty good. 

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