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