Rightly or wrongly, my benchmark for dim sum is the various London outposts of Royal China. Tonight, less of the Bayswater, more of a midweek local wander down the hill to Atlantic Road’s Courtesan. Beyond the joyful plundering of Wing Yip for steam-at-home dumplings and cheung fun, I don’t cook east Asian. I tried sushi once. As crafted by Stephen Hawking on a bad day. Some things should be left to the experts.
French colonial era opium den shabby chic faded opulence, dark woods, louche interior minimalist style with period trimmings. And a menu that walks the walk. Unlike tapas and many sharing plate menus, regular dim sum pitching up to the table works for me. Not on a conveyor belt. And the art is delivering often robust flavour with the correct subtlety in the outer casings. Light and dark please.
Courtesan combines classics with the off-piste with variable results. Duck spring roll was functionally fine, the Goldfish dumplings, salmon, pumpkin and courgette, a curious curve ball. Prawn Phoenix were excellent, savoury prawn encased in a nest of deep-fried noodles and sweet chilli dip, as were Tribute of Crab, crab and prawn steamed in neat lettuce jackets. Classic prawn and pork sui mai dumplings were steamingly fresh, char sui honey pork buns were soft, cotton wool fluffy and interior sticky (as they should be) and both pork and prawn cheung fun a distinctive step up from Wing Yip’s. Wasabi King Prawn dumplings delivered the required distinctive kick. On a hot sweaty evening, washed down with a sweet cold rose.
It is possible Courtesan serves the best dim sum in Brixton, which, possibly due to its location ‘just off’ Brixton’s hugely over populated main village or pop drag, makes it surprising how lightly populated it was this evening. While, round the corner the hordes queue for often hugely average slop masquerading as dirty street food or artisan cuisine. Nor is it Royal China (for which on a Sunday, you should probably start queueing on a Saturday). I like the fact they are trying offbeat variations on the classic combos even if it doesn’t always work and with reasonable prices for a local evening’s dining, Courtesan is an authentic experience with a few interesting twists.
69 Atlantic Road, SW9 8PU
0208 127 8677