There’s the most wonderful fish tank in the ‘consulting room’ of TV series Nip/Tuck, a drama about life in a plastic surgery. Vast, blue-lit, and containing impossibly clear water and darting tropical fish, it makes you want to dive inside.
Yauatcha, the new dim sum-cum-teahouse from restaurateur Alan Yau, produces a similar effect. With its blue-glass facade – illuminated from within, thanks to a subtle lighting concept by Tomato – it is a refreshing oasis of calm in London’s otherwise bustling Soho.
Once you get past the burly doorman – really, what is the point? – you know you’re in for something special. French designer Christian Liaigre has created two very different, but equally sophisticated, interiors for the ground and basement floors of Richard Rogers’ no-frills Ingeni building.
The ground floor, which from May will be the teahouse, is pale and ethereal. White walls and marble-effect floors are offset by the dark, deeply grained wood of the shelving and ceiling ornamentation.
Sprays of cherry blossom pick up the delicate embroidery on the grey, metal-framed couches and the ebullient pink-and-green of North Design’s patisserie boxes (DW 19 and 26 February), which line one wall. There’s even a huge fish tank adjacent to the bar area that hides the staircase from view.
Not that this polished, black set of steps needs to be disguised. Making your way downstairs, you can feel the glamour quotient rising. Sure enough, the restaurant proper doesn’t disappoint. Moody and dark, it’s as if the teahouse above has been flipped on its head.
A huge, black drinks bar with a slim fish tank running across the top of the counter dominates the room. Bright green, embroidered banquettes rest against bare brick walls, where electric candles flicker in hundreds of cross-shaped alcoves.
The frenetic activity of the kitchen staff is just about disguised by opaque, blue-glass panels with more sprays of cherry blossom in front and rectangular magenta lampshades behind.
Sitting beneath the whimsical, twinkling ‘stars’ in the ceiling and looking around, it’s easy to forget that you’re here to eat. But that would be doing a disservice to the nearly 40 types of dim sum on offer – including the moreish Char sui bun, Chinese chive dumpling and Baked venison puff.
Yauatcha’s food, washed down with some of the most elegantly presented teas and cocktails you’ll find in London, is top-class. Add dazzling interiors and eager and efficient staff into the mix and you have the ingredients for a seriously good night out.
Yau, clearly not content with the successes of earlier ventures such as Wagamama, Busaba Eathai and the Michelin-starred Hakkasan, has pulled it off once again.
Yauatcha is at 15 Broadwick Street, London W1