Review of 'Ugly Dumpling'

When we visited the Carnaby Street Eat Food Festival last August we could not help but notice the longest queues were for the unusually named “Ugly Dumpling”. We ended up trying other food instead but we always wanted to return to try as we are huge fans of dumplings in all their forms: Japanese Gyoza, Chinese Potstickers, Central European Pierogi, Italian Ravioli…So, was “Ugly Dumpling” any good? Yeah, not bad…

Ugly Dumpling is located on the former site of Pitt Cue on the corner of Ganton and Newburgh streets just a stone's throw from Carnaby Street. It is a tiny location with seating upstairs for perhaps 12 people (at a push) and a small area in the basement seating, perhaps, another 20. When I visited by myself I was asked to sit at the bar at the top of the stairs on the ground floor which I shared with the serving staff for the time I was there (I was later somewhat put off by other single diners actually being given seats but this place is so busy that diners coming in are seated with whatever is free at the time). Reservations are most definitely recommended particularly on busy evening – I visited on a Saturday (!).


The menu is a sheet of A4 with one side food and other drinks. The food is divided into “Dumplings”, “Sides” and “Sweet”. The all-important dumpling section has a series of 8 piece platters: Meat, Seafood, Vegetarian and Vegan at £11 (£10 for the veggie ones) as well as “Street Food Classics” and “New Favourites” where you can order dumplings in 3s at either £4 or £5 depending on what it is. The option I went for was “One of each” in the two columns at £6 (Street Food Classics) and £8 (New Favourites). I also choose the unusual sounding “tempura aubergine, golden syrup dressing, peanuts” (£6).


Oddly, the aubergine was the absolute star of the show with it's crispy pieces of aubergine, amazingly good syrup and peanut topping. But the dumplings were not that bad either…The street food classics were pork belly (delicious, delicate and juicy flavour), aromatic duck (a Peking duck dish in dumpling form), prawn & chive (unmemorable), satay chicken, and spinach & tofu (not my bag, really, ultra bland). For the new favourites it was cheeseburger (surprisingly good, really like a cheeseburger!), mushroom & truffle, cajun salmon and lemon yogurt (tasted just like cured salmon to me and the yogurt really cooled the dumpling making it slightly unpleasant to eat and, unfortunately to my taste, quite fishy in flavour), pizza (yeah, not bad, but no “cheeseburger dumpling”!), and artichoke, sun-dried tomato (boring).

The dumpling wrappers are quite heavy somewhere between a Japanese (thin) gyoza and Polish (thick) pierogi, so, slightly doughy. Despite having a wide variety of dumplings, admirably, they all arrived piping hot to the table though the separate plates arrived at different times and the starter arrived at the same time as one of the mains. They are also definitely not very large so unless you are made of money it is unlikely you are going to fill yourself on them.

The dumplings appeared wonderfully on the plate but, as can be seen, there was not a lot of them so I had to go for dessert as well, the “pecan pie dumplings” (£4) were recommended by the server and very good indeed but a bit small. Three dumplings filled with ultra-sweet pecan pie filling deep fried placed onto three small (quite insufficient) drops of cream.


Obviously this is “fusion” cuisine that most of the time works but some of the time is just…odd. Not bothered with mixing of cuisines but it has to taste good and here I think the emphasis appears to often be on the odd resulting in mediocre taste instead of trying to do something a bit more interesting with great flavour. The menu grabs the attention but does not necessarily hold it. Yeah, I tried a cheeseburger dumpling but would I want it again? Not so sure. The restaurant was busy with people coming and going but I have to wonder if that is (a) due to the small size and (b) due to the novelty factor. Problem is: Novelty will wear off in time.

At £30.38 including a 12.5% service charge for just one person (including a non-alcoholic fruit drink at £3) it is a bit pricey and I certainly did not exactly roll out of the restaurant…Food was good but I have to believe it is just attention-grabbing dishes. In London this may be sustainable so they may be around a while…

Rating: “A bit better than average”

Review Date: 2019-03-09

Cuisine: Japanese

Address: 1 Newburgh St, Soho, London W1F 7RB ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Piccadilly Circus

Location: London (England) - Soho



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