SL Reviews: Red Farm | sheerluxe.com
There’ve been rumblings and rumours of its opening since early last year, but cult NYC dim sum joint Red Farm finally launched in Covent Garden last week. We made sure we were one of the first through the doors to get our chopsticks around its famous Pac Man dumplings…
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The concept…

This new Covent Garden destination is the latest collaboration between dim sum master chef Joe Ng and Chinese food expert Ed Schoenfeld. The original Red Farm opened in 2010 in the New York’s West Village, and a second location on the Upper West Side in 2012. Since then, Time Out New York has gone on to vote Red Farm’s steak the best in the city, and it’s Zagat’s top-rated Chinese restaurant in Manhattan. So, when we heard rumours that the team was bringing the concept over to London, we were keen to see if its first international outpost was worth the wait.

The setting…

Red Farm occupies a prime slice of Covent Garden, right next to another New York export, Balthazar. A slim, blank canvas doorway from the exterior, inside you’ll find a similar set-up to its West Village townhouse: red gingham tablecloths nod to the restaurant’s ‘farmhouse’ element, but everything’s brought bang up to date with white-washed brickwork and smatterings of mismatched pine furniture. There are spaces to seat all styles of dining in this 28-seat eatery, from six countertop seats at the bar, through to three four-seat booths and high communal benches.

The food…

Given the lengthy (and enticing) menu, we recommend heading in as a group and ordering a load of plates to share. Offering a modern take on Cantonese classics, the menu spans langoustine sashimi through to egg and bacon fried rice. Of the starters, we recommend beginning with the restaurant’s most popular dish – the spicy crispy beef, which is both those things and absolutely moreish. The crisp pastrami egg roll – made using local Monty’s Deli pastrami, we hear – brings a hint of New York to London, while delicate slices of fatty grilled pork belly are spiked with soy sauce, and all the more addictive for it.

Chef Joe Ng is famous for his inventively styled dumplings, and his most celebrated creation is his Pac Man dim sum, which have happily jumped across the pond. Shrimp is wrapped in ginger, coriander, curry and bamboo dumpling skins: the dumplings have been given eyes to recreate the game’s four ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde, while a sweet potato tempura Pac Man sits atop a mound of subtly Asian-spiced guacamole. We’re pleased to report that they taste even better than they look. This dish is already an Instagram sensation – expect to see more of it over here as Red Farm fully launches.

Owner Ed told us that since putting cheeseburger spring rolls on the specials menu, he’s been craving them every day. After sampling them ourselves, and daydreaming about the oozy cheese within the next morning, we’re inclined to agree – if they’re on the menu, grab some for the table. Elsewhere, shrimp stuffed crispy chicken is an umami-laden delight, the thick, crunchy skin holding up well against the peanut dipping sauce that accompanies it. Custard bao, a steamed bun filled with sweet custard, errs more on the side of savoury, but is a worthy way to finish your meal.

The drinks…

Later this month the team will launch Toots & Hoots, a dedicated bar up on the first floor. For now, the restaurant is well served by a small team in the main space, where they turn out well-executed classics such as Manhattans and Old Fashioneds, plus the ‘Just About Thyme’, the bar’s herb-infused spin on a G&T. There’s also a small but decent wine list to get stuck into, which features a nice selection of American reds.

The verdict…

Given its extensive menu, we’re already plotting a return visit (note to self: order the crab and prawn soup dumplings). A meal here doesn’t come cheap – starters range from £8 to £14 (it’s recommended you share three between two), mains are in the region of £12-36 (an extremely tasty side of asparagus with XO is £12), and cocktails will set you back £13 each. That said, in this part of town you could spend a lot more on a lot less – for us, it’s worth every penny.

Given that it’s a walk-ins-only restaurant in Covent Garden, we’re expecting this to be queue-heavy once it’s fully up and running. And with good reason, too: we were impressed with both the level of hospitality and the execution of each of the dishes. If you’re after authentic, fusion-free Taiwanese bites, book a table at Soho’s XU. But if you’re after something a little different – and wildly tasty – you’d better join that queue down Russell Street.

9 Russell Street, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5HZ

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