SET-UP & SITE:
Nothing says family brunch like “yum cha”. The sharing, the crowded tables, the convoy of tempting morsels, the lazy Susan spinning around in the middle — a literally moveable feast. The chaos and colour and sense of community. Nowhere, arguably, says “yum cha” more triumphantly than the family-run Pearl Garden, which has been dishing up yum cha since 1975. We climb the steps (or you can take the lift) to arrive at 11.30am and we are glad we booked a table. The place is totally packed. It’s colourful, rather beautiful and it’s humming.
SUSTENANCE & SWILL:
The trolleys and trays start rolling past and soon our table is covered in delectable shumai (dim sum), cha siu bao (pork bun), and the best dumplings I think I’ve had in Auckland. Yes, I know, that’s a big call. But there it is. Before they make it to your mouth, take a moment to clock how exquisitely crafted the dumplings are. The flavours are fresh, light and delicate. We try an eggplant dish, crescent-shaped and syrupy with black bean, but not too sweet. We devour barbecue pork. It’s almost impossible to pick a favourite here, because everything is so damn good. But if I had to, it’d be the spinach and prawn dumplings that have pretty pale green wrappers. The sheer variety of food is astonishing. We stick with the steamed dumplings but there are fried options available. Much of the food is prepared using soybean oil and rice flour, which probably accounts for the clean flavours. We are replete, yet there is more to tempt us. We pass on the coconut and pineapple buns and finish instead, with custard tarts and more tea.
SERVICE & OTHER STUFF:
Our pot of green tea is constantly replenished. The wait staff are super-helpful and friendly in describing the dishes we aren’t unfamiliar with. The table settings are really generous, there’s a sense of space, the china really pretty and elegant and it feels like some real love and care has been poured into proceedings here. There are dishes of chilli and soy sauce. They don’t just chuck a boring white side plate and disposable chopsticks at you. It’s hard to imagine how a family of five could dine out for $17 each. It’s a great deal, made sweeter by the brilliance of the offerings. Yum cha unparalleled.