There are two guaranteed ways to get us to visit a restaurant. The first involves a bribe involving a Pokemon DVD, and a multipack of pickled onion Monster Munch. And the second involves the words ‘the dumplings’, and ‘all of’.
That brings us to My Neighbours the Dumplings, a ridiculously popular neighbourhood restaurant in Clapton specialising in dim sum and a rotating menu of Chinese-style specials. It’s on a street where trendy locals like to hang out and do things that people in Hackney like to do, like drink negronis and say things like ‘woke’, and ‘I still haven’t paid for my last freelance job’. The restaurant itself is artfully scruffed-up, with lots of hanging lanterns and neon signs - it’s a dim sum parlour, East London-style. So it’s ridiculously trendy, yes, but don’t let that put you off - the food’s pretty good.
The standard dumplings like har gau (prawn) and shu mai (pork and prawn) are fat little parcels of flavour. They’re nicely made and the ingredients are good, and they’re the kind of thing you’d see at a much more expensive Chinese restaurant in town like Yauatcha. They’re not always perfect - on the odd visit, we’ve found the quality to be not that much better than the average spot in Chinatown - but when the kitchen’s on its game, which they usually are, they’re fantastic. The lamb potstickers are also great, and the daily specials are usually excellent. Look out for the sticky ribs - you’ll start out eating one, and demolish the lot before you realise what’s happening.
There is a major catch, though, and it comes in the form a no-booking policy and a 45-minute wait, even on a good night. It isn’t usually too big a problem, as My Neighbours have a wicked bar downstairs where you can eat endless bowls of lotus crisps (they’re really good) and Asian-themed drinks with sake in them. The bar is an excellent place to hang out in itself, but the prospect of a good har gau for us is usually too good to resist.
We like My Neighbours. It’s a banging little restaurant with an A+ atmosphere that most people would kill to have on their doorstep. While we wouldn’t advise spending an hour on public transport to come and eat here, it should be an evening go-to if you’re local and fancy an easy night out. It’s great for a mid-week fix, and a good place to gather a few friends from the area for the occasional feast. And in this part of London, no one’s going to blink if we show up in our Pikachu onesie.
The salty pop of the salmon roe topping actually adds to the dumplings themselves, instead of being there just for decoration.
When the kitchen’s on its game, these are really well made and taste brilliant. We’ve occasionally had a basket with claggy, overcooked dumpling skins, but in our experience they’re few and far between.
These are properly good - the restaurant has an excellent lineup for vegetarians and if we were consigned to eating gluten and plants for the rest of our lives, we’d be OK with an extra order of these.
Spicy sesame cucumber salad is the new seaweed salad, except you don’t have to pretend that you like it. It’s a nice contrast to all the carbs you’ll be eating.
This comes wrapped in a lotus leaf, and if you like sticky rice in any way at all, get these. It’s very inhale-able.
A Chinese meal isn’t complete without pork, and these do the swine proud. We’re just saying, we wouldn’t be upset if we were turned into these eventually.
Compared to the ribs, this was disappointing. They’re incredibly salty, cumbersome to eat, and not a patch on the average Chinatown spot. Give these a miss, unless you don’t care what form you consume your roast pork in.
You’ll punch your dining companion in the face over the last one, and you won’t regret it for a second. Get your own pot-stickers for fck’s sake, Steve.
You may see this on the specials board, and you might think about ordering it. The kitchen hasn’t been great with steamed fish on our visits, and the result usually ends up on the mushy side. We can’t really find a way back from that, no matter how much chilli oil and soy sauce we douse on it. Pass.