Delightful dinners at Royal China

If you’re a fan of spare ribs you must visit Royal China. Their version is about the best in the city. 

There was much excitement when Royal China opened many years ago. This was one of the first premium London-based chains to open, and one which South Mumbai’s old money was familiar with. Though the prices were on the higher side the food was lovely enough, but the new service norms created quite a stir. In sharp contrast to accepted practice the food was not served to you, instead, the prepared dishes were placed on the table along with a serving spoon and guests were expected to serve themselves.

It caused a minor furore but didn’t impinge on the popularity of the restaurant. Royal China prospered, opening a second outlet in Bandra in place of the ill-fated China White started by designer Mustafa Eisa. A few years later Chinese became the flavour of the season and Mumbai saw a slew of new speciality Chinese restaurants opening. There was China House at Grand Hyatt, followed by Hakkasan and Yauatcha. The buzz around Royal China quietened but the restaurant carried on quietly in the background.

It was time I felt to re-visit and to try out the dim sum menu as well. Mumbai has plenty of restaurants offering dim sum menus and a comparison was in order, so early last month we decided to go there for a meal. We were so pleasantly surprised by the meal that we returned a fortnight later.

So here’s what we had over two meals at Royal China, Fort.

Spare ribs in Black Bean Sauce Royal China, Mumbai
Spare ribs in Black Bean Sauce

These are without reservation the best spare ribs I have had in Mumbai. How good were they? So good that the girlfriend and I returned just so that we could order a portion each and wouldn’t have to share. Unlike other restaurants, the meat is chopped into bite-size bits many of which are boneless. So what you’re eating is lovely pink, soft, juicy pillows of pork lightly draped in a salty, mildly-spicy cooking liquor. Ever so often you bite into one of the soft black beans and get a delightfully burst of saltiness.

Chinese buns Royal China, Mumbai
Chinese buns

We mopped up the spare ribs with these fluffy, plain bao buns. Would recommend you do the same.

Prawn Cheung Fan Royal China, Mumbai
Prawn Cheung Fan

The skin was perfect but the filling of whole prawns didn’t have much taste and kept tumbling out. Yauatcha does a much better Cheung Fan.

Steamed curried squid Royal China, Mumbai
Steamed curried squid

Tossed in a thick, sweet-sour curry like sauce the squid was nice and tender, and quite a change from the norm. What I found most interesting was that the squid had been cut into irregular shape and sized pieces. It gave the dish a very home-style appeal.

Sautéed tenderloin in oyster sauce Royal China, Mumbai
Sautéed tenderloin in oyster sauce

Another dish we didn’t care for; the meat was succulent and juicy and had absorbed the flavour of the sauce but had a very unpleasant slightly gamey undertone.

Cantonese honey roasted pork Royal China, Mumbai
Cantonese honey roasted pork

The tender slices of pork with a crispy skin in the gentle, sweet nage were quite, quite delightful.

Lamb with chilli oil and spring onion Royal China, Mumbai
Lamb with chilli oil and spring onion

Since we were quite sure we didn’t want to return to the beef on our second visit we decided to try the lamb (well, goat actually). We were not disappointed. I’m not a big fan of lamb but not only was the thinly sliced meat soft and full of flavour, the chilli oil gave the sauce a piquancy without turning it pungent. I’d order this one again.

Garlic fried rice Royal China, Mumbai
Garlic fried rice

Even the zingy fried garlic couldn’t resuscitate this deathly dull fried rice. It wasn’t bad, just terribly insipid.

Steamed mushroom pot rice Royal China, Mumbai
Steamed mushroom pot rice

One of the tastiest pot rices I’ve had so far. What I really liked was the intense mushroomy-of the sauce and the contrasting textures and flavours the different varieties mushrooms introduced.

Royal China
Near CST
Behind Sterling Cinema
Hazarimal Somani Road
Fort, Mumbai 400 001
Tel: 022 22072492

Invited by PR company  No
Guest of the chef/ restaurant  No
Restaurant knew I’m a food writer  No
Meal comped by the restaurant  No

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