Review of 'Ping Pong'

Ok, it was a bit busy when we visited this branch of the Ping Pong chain located in the “Festival Terrace” beside the Royal Festival hall but I can't believe that makes up for incredibly slow service, bland, over-priced food, cramped seating, and unwashed plates. Hum, have I forgotten anything?

So, we were in the area at the “Real Food Market” that periodically visits behind the Festival Hall looking for somewhere new to try so thought we would give Ping Pong a try, being big fans of dim sum (Royal China is probably the best in London, by quite some ways) but we also were not in the mood for large portions. The crowded, noisy restaurant was busy but the helpful reception staff escorted us to a table right beside the bar which turned out to be a big mistake (despite being told it was the “best available”) as we kept getting knocked in the back by staff as they made their way to the bar and splashed by various drinks being prepared by the bartenders. The round tables are communal with flat, semi-circular benches (seating two or three) that tuck underneath. When we sat in ours there was less than a foot between where we sat and the bar – very tight indeed. We had to return a plate because it has some unidentified things on it's surface that had survived the (hopefully) dish washing process (later we noticed the table with a lit circular section in the middle had dirt all around the outside edges).

The menu is much as you would expect in a typical dim sum restaurant with prices about double what you would expect at lower-priced establishments (still more than Royal China – which we thought was expensive!). They do offer various set menus (a few of which only valid before 5:00 pm) as well as a “unlimited” option on Sunday for £19 (where you can choose dishes from the non-special bits of the menu and excluding deserts). As with a restaurant of this kind you are given a small slip of paper on which to tick the dishes you would like to order. Dishes are arranged by cooking type, so “Cold Selection”, “Nibbles”, “Soups”, “Steamed”, “Baked”, “Griddled”, “Fried”, “Clay Pots”, “Signature Dishes”, “Steamed Buns”, “Sticky Rice”, and “Vegetables”. Originally thinking of the set meal it was unclear the exact quantities included (does “1” refer to one dumpling or one serving, that is, 2-3 dumplings?) so we decided to order individual dishes. Dishes took quite some time to come with our waiting about 10 minutes for the first then only receiving our final dish about 20 minutes after that.

The “Chilli Squid” (£3.99) lacked any amount of flavour with the squid slightly chewy and deep-fried in a light batter but served with some hot sauce that looked, and tasted, a lot like what you can buy in any supermarket (hot, vinegary with no real flavour). The “Scallop and Shitake” (£3.49) steamed dumpling was bland and sticky. The “Chilli Squid Cake” (deep fried) was chewy and served with a light vinegar sauce that was much better tasting than the cakes themselves. The “Gai Lan with Shallots and Soy Sauce” (£3.79) was the smallest portion either of us have ever seen (perhaps about 2 pieces of the broccoli-like vegetable cut into about 10 pieces about 3 inches long, with deep-fried shallots and a bit of soy sauce) and also the blandest – These are best served with oyster sauce. On the plus side, the “Char Sui Bun” (£3.99) - BBQ pork inside a steamed bun - Was quite flavourful (if a bit small) and the “Chicken and coconut rice bowl” (£4.79) although, again, quite small had a bit of flavour as well.

I had a “Oolong” tea (£2.29) which was served in a tall glass (?) in a rather nice looking tea-bag suspended with a wood skewer across the top while my companion had a soft-drink (mostly ice). I have to admit, the drink menu was very good with a large assortment of teas on offer as well as cocktails.

If I sound like I am being overly negative – Perhaps I am. I guess because I have seen real dim sum and this is not it. It can be flavourful and inexpensive and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, this was none of these things. At £34 (including a 12.5% service charge) for two of us (not drinking alcohol and not really eating a full meal) this is not cheap in any way. Will we back? Unlikely, not when about a 15 minute walk away in any direction are far superior experiences for half the money.

Rating: “A slight glimmer of hope, but mostly awful”

Review Date: 2010-07-03

Cuisine: Chinese

Address: Festival Terrace, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX

Public Transport: TUBE Waterloo

Location: London (England) - Southwark



Show in Google Maps  Get Directions

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7960 4160