Everyone has a dumpling Eureka moment. Or at least I hope for their sake that they do.
I guess for those who grow up eating dumplings, it’s a very early and relatively unconscious thing. For the rest of us, there’ll be a time (if it’s not already happened) when they stop being fiddly bites that don’t fill you up, and instead become an essential part of the diet / an aggressive addiction.
To be honest, I don’t remember when I suddenly realised I needed steamed dough in my life. But boy do I get cravings; if I don’t get a dim sum fix at least once every 21 days (I’ve counted), then all manner of woe is unleashed.
Which is where Jen Café in Chinatown comes in.
This small site on the corner of Newport Place and Newport Court is in many respects unremarkable. Technically, I think it’s an informal tea room and you’d walk past without a second glance, were it not for the lady standing by the window, rhythmically rolling dough and crimping wrappings with mesmerising efficiency.
When inside, you’ll see the menu is relatively concise. Consider a plate of rice with roast duck and pork, particularly if you’re hungover. But, really, the One Good Reason to go to Jen Café is to slay that dumpling craving.
The choice is simple: steamed Beijing dumplings; or fried Beijing dumplings. Five minutes later you’ll be faced with a plate of 7 hand made beauts. The pot stickers are always perfectly fried – but I’ve a marginal preference for the steamed version. There’s decent flavour from the minced pork, spring onion and chive filling, and a good bite to the wrapping. Add chilli sauce and their house soy and vinegar mix, dig in, and very quickly everything is OK with the world again.
Jen Café lacks the variation of flavours of somewhere like Wong Fu in Hong Kong, and it’s not comprehensive or fancy in any way.* But it does do exactly what you need it to when the dumpling low sets in.
Jen Café, 4-8 Newport Place, London WC2H 7JP
One Good Reason
The Beijing dumplings. About a fiver for a filling plate.
* (my word, I had top dim sum at the new Yauatcha City the other day – prawn and bean curd cheung fun and scallop shumai)