Full disclosure: I’ve never liked Chinese food. I know, I’m a minority and I hold up my hands when I say that I’m well aware that this is purely as a result of a series of unfortunate events. Too many sketchy take-aways and £5 all-you-can-eat buffets. It could have been any kind of food, it just happens to be Chinese. This is largely down to having never had a decent, proper Chinese restaurant experience and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that it’s easy for Chinese food to be lumbered into the ‘drunk takeaway’ bracket, without being really appreciated. To use a boozy metaphor, my Chinese food experiences had only ever been ‘Special Brew’ types. I wanted a Moet and Chandon run-in. Enough of the tinnies, gimme the good stuff.
So, after countless attempts made by Tom to try and get me on board with his favourite takeaway (these attempts of which were largely made whilst wasted, involving shoddy late-night deliveries of bits of battered pork floating in a disturbingly orange sauce) he finally booked us into a little Chinese eatery in Hackney, which we’d heard really good things about over the past few months.
My Neighbours The Dumplings was everything I wanted it to be and more. We cycled down Graham Road before turning down Wilton Way where we found its unassuming, un-signposted shop front – from the outside, it looked tiny. Squeezing ourselves inside, we realised that from the inside, it was tiny, but perfectly formed. I instantly felt good about this decision; the interior was really cool, the food I eyed up on people’s tables looked legit, the place was teeming with groups of chatting friends knocking back sake and we were welcomed with a more-than warm reception.
Interiors can make me love a place before I’ve even tasted the food and this restaurant didn’t fail. The back wall was a myriad of cut blocks of wood in various lengths and thicknesses, resulting in an understated beechy, textured art installation. Plants, books and nicknacks occupied shelves on the cream walls and a collection of the coolest Chinese-symbol-adorned light boxes I’ve ever seen hung in various places throughout. Turns out Bec and her partner – the owners – designed these light boxes themselves. Shame. I’d earmarked a few of them for my flat.
We took up two spaces on the end of a communal bench and put in our orders. The little sharing dishes arrived as and when they were ready, resulting in a really relaxed pace which set the president for the whole evening. I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d write this review, given that I didn’t like Chinese food that much, so was prepared to hand over the writing baton to Tom. However. It seems habits of a lifetime can be changed.
The food was amazing. So simple and delicious, with awesome flavours and combinations which offered a different spin on the stereotypical Chinese food menu. You’ve probably worked this out, but dumplings are their speciality and it’s easy to understand why. It was all flawless – I couldn’t fault it. The dishes are designed for sharing. We ordered loads. Some of the highlights included the classic pork and prawn dim sum, papaya salad and crispy “pot-stickers” of lamb and coriander. Oh, and we washed it all down with one of the sodas from the Hackney boys, Square Root.
I would say “if you’re a lover of Chinese food, you need to get along to this place so you can put some of their dumplings away” but I’ve learnt that it doesn’t even matter whether you actually like Chinese or not. It’s very likely you’ll love everything about this place regardless. If you do go, just please make sure you try their Nutella spring rolls with salted caramel sauce. I swear to God they’re the best freaking dessert we’ve had in ages. My Neighbours The Dumplings has to move soon so catch them while you can.