‘It’s a bit like feed­ing time at a med­i­cal trials cen­tre you signed up for to set­tle your gam­bling debts’

The Guardian - Feast - - Feast - Grace Dent

Hype is a vi­tal pivot of the restau­rant scene. I wish I could re­veal some­thing more whole­some, but hype will put more bums on seats and nap­kins in laps than a new open­ing’s deft sea­son­ing or fancy pro­duce sup­pli­ers. At the all-new, 250-seater Din Tai Fung in Lon­don’s Covent Gar­den, those shad­owy voices of hype said we should ex­pect an open­ing-week queue of five hours. In De­cem­ber, on a busy, pre-Christ­mas tourist thor­ough­fare, bring a cagoule and stay hy­drated, be­cause the queue for its xiao long bao and salted egg cus­tard lava buns will feel like the sort of war of at­tri­tion from which Stephen King could milk 500 pages.

Hype of the level sur­round­ing Din Tai Fung, I must stress, is not cre­ated sim­ply by paid pub­lic re­la­tions teams. Clearly they help, but real, giddy hype will al­ways be some­thing of a per­fect storm. Din Tai Fung is a global chain that spe­cialises in Tai­wanese dumplings and Huaiyang cui­sine. The com­pany has made moves on Lon­don in a swag­ger­ing – al­beit po­litely swag­ger­ing – man­ner by com­man­deer­ing two enor­morestau­rants in the eye-wa­ter­ingly ex­pen­sive real-es­tate zones of Hen­ri­etta Street and, soon, Ox­ford Street’s Cen­tre Point. What’s less easy to de­ci­pher is why Din Tai Fung is “cool right now”, which Din Tai Fung

Food ○○○

At­mos­phere ○○

Ser­vice ○○

5-6 Hen­ri­etta Street, Lon­don WC2, 0203-0343 888. Open all week, 11am-10.30pm (10pm Sun). About £30 a head, plus drinks and ser­vice

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