photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Yi-Ban review image



1010 Dockside Rd, London
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Airport meals exist in their own sad little category, don’t they? They’re inhaled and gobbled and the definition of food as fuel. The bar is low and, at least in the UK, a Pret jambon-beurre and a misjudged pint feels like the best you can hope for. Unless, of course, you go to Yi-Ban. The Cantonese restaurant is smack bang opposite London City Airport—a vast, classic, white tablecloth dining room that serves moreish and excellent value dim sum in a completely unique and Airbus A318-heavy setting.

Given that it’s open from midday until around 10pm all week (Thursdays aside), Yi-Ban wants to be as available for anyone and everyone as possible. A midweek lunchtime will see a few work-related groups and the odd lone dumpling-cum-plane spotting enthusiast. Of course, the real pros will enjoy their lurid, addictive crispy chilli beef before wandering across Connaught Bridge to catch a flight to sunnier climes. But otherwise it’s the buzz of groups of family and friends on the weekend when the restaurant is at its busiest. And, despite its location being in the kind of area Phil Mitchell would send someone to sleep with the fishes, the whole thing works. The combination of whirring jet engines, XO sauce-slathered cheung fun, and lazy susans is a good one.

Yi-Ban review image

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Like most Cantonese restaurants, Yi-Ban’s vast dim sum menu is only available in the daytime. There are thickly wrapped xiaolongbao, delicately stuffed crab meat dumplings, and lots more to choose from. It’s delicious without being exceptional, but each dish is under £5 and given you’re sitting in a massive, conference-ready dining room opposite a runway, it’s hard to leave Yi-Ban anything other than completely and utterly content. Excited, even. The careful fork-and-spoon shredding of a crispy aromatic duck is often the spectacle at a big table feast, which is very much what Yi-Ban should be used for. But here you get to marvel at something at a higher altitude as well. Only unlike actual airport restaurants, Yi-Ban isn’t stuck in that weird liminal space. It’s a restaurant you should be making a trip to en masse all year-round.

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Food Rundown

Yi-Ban review image

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Dim Sum

Yi-Ban’s daytime dim sum menu is as deep as it is delicious. Ensuring you have a selection of cheung fun—steamed and filled with sweet roasted pork or crispy deep-fried pastry batter—is completely essential. Other dumplings, like scallops wrapped in a transparent crystal wrapper, or pork and crab siu mai, are reliable crowd-pleasers. Chilli oil on the side is a must, of course. In the realm of the beige and the deep-fried, sweet roast pork-filled pastries and any variety of golden, fried prawn hit the spot just as you’d expect them to.

Yi-Ban review image

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Shredded Chilli Beef

There is nothing natural about the day-glo orange colour of this crispy chilli beef and there is no bad word we can say about it. Unlike some takes on this Cantonese classic, there’s a pleasing chew to these strips of crunchy sweet beef and the fluorescent sauce is as moreish as you’d hope it would be.

Crispy Aromatic Duck

We’re hard pressed to think of three words that combine better than crispy, aromatic, and duck. Yi-Ban’s is as you’d hope: steaming hot with tender meat and deep-brown crispy skin with a few melt-in-your-mouth pieces of fat for the lucky ones.

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