I walked past here for more than a year, and always thought it looked dodgy, or just closed. Then I read reviews, and after moving away from the Brixton area, came back just to try it. And boy did I regret not coming here before!
Standout, amazing dishes: roast pork puff, taro croquette, mango chicken (not authentic, but delicious), mushroom puff (if you like mushrooms),
Fine, but wouldn't get again: soft shell crab, black sesame balls. Nothing was bad, but I've had better, roast pork bun.
Eh: red bean bun dessert. The steamed prawn dumpling and cheon fun were disappointing, because they should be so easy to get right. I mean, I've had worse, but the prawns were just a little tougher than they should be.
We also got the handmaid's noodles, which were very much not what we expecting, so hard to judge. It wasn't the most popular dish, though.
Service was a little slow, but friendly. Which is to say, British, rather than Chinese (which would be somewhat quicker, but brusque).
All that being said, I would go any day of the week just for the standout dishes I named. i would go right now. The owner is not Chinese, but the chefs are.
I wish there was a slightly larger variety of dishes (chrysanthemum tea was lacking!), and for Sunday lunch we were the only table the whole time we were there, so I also hope they stay in business! For 6 people, it was about £17 each.
I'm a little torn.
The decor is fantastic, and the efforts they've gone to keeping it candle-lit and intimate are commendable; even at their own expense I suspect - it always looks closed when you walk past! Not being able to see in, see other people enjoying this place, could well put you off entering in the first place.
But if you do, you'll find a really good menu (with some curveballs such as jerk chicken dim sum) backed up by the execution. I enjoyed everything I ate here. It's not cheap mind.
Their promotional business card that came with the bill was pushing the cocktail bar aspect of this place. Given that we were two of 6 people in here, all sat eating, I don't think they're succeeding on that front just yet.
As such, the atmosphere was a little lacking. They were trying though - we had to ask them to turn down the blaring music. Friendly and efficient service otherwise.
tl; dr: mediocre food, bad service.
It's gorgeous inside here. Really beautiful. They've put in a lot of thought and work on the decor. That's nice, but it's just a nice to have.
Slightly worrisome is the menu. Some traditional dim sum, but they've got jerk chicken dumplings and tempura tofu. OK. I'm willing to go with that, but it's often of concern.
Prices were OK, and there's a decent selection of teas and cocktails and beers, so that's nice.
Then we sat for a while.
Then they finally came and took our order, which was nice.
The tea and the first round of food came out - lapsang souchang, just under half a pot, with a pinch of leaves. Almost enough, but not quite. Three dishes came out as well - chicken & coriander dumplings, fried calamari bits, and the frog legs.
Now, the frog legs were the best thing we had, and they were good. Not frozen, i.e. tasted like frog, not chicken.
Squid was OK, but a bit chewy & overcooked.
Both of these dishes with a fine side of sriracha.
Don't get me wrong: I love sriracha. It's great. It's all the wonder of ketchup with all the wonder of chili and better of all the flavours and textures squeezed into a little bottle of deadliness. But it was just sriracha.
And we got our coriander and chicken dumplings. Those were OK. They came in a basket and they stuck together and fell apart when we took them out which is a sign that the kitchen maybe isn't sure how to put the rice paper together properly, but hey, not the end of the world. They were OK.
Then we waited. And waited. Had a chat. And waited. Finished our tea. And waited. Finally we were asked if we wanted anything else.
"The rest of our order, maybe?"
Some inquiries later and we were asked what bits were missing.
Then we waited some more, and began to question the wisdom of waiting in the first place, rather than cutting our losses and having some chips or something, before the food came.
Sweet potato rolls. Not much in the flavour department. No stinging sweetness.
Teriyaki tempura tofu. Tofu. Some squidgy wrapping. Batter, but more like breadcrumbs than tempura batter. Some sort of thick sauce that didn't taste of much.
All that, plus 12.5% service: £32, and us not going back.
I'll say again: You can screw up as a restauranteur, but you have to make it right. They screwed up, and they didn't make it right.
Mediocre food, bad service.
I hope people start coming here. I know there is buzzing Brixton Village/Market just up the street and this place can look a bit dark from the outside, but the dim sum is surprisingly lovely. I grew up in a Cantonese family so can vouch that this (aside from a few fusion items on the menu) is the real deal! Their shrimp dumplings (har gow) have chunks of shrimp in them and the wrapper has a good slightly chewy texture. The rice wrapped in lotus leaves are yummy (nice sticky rice, infused with the flavour of the lotus leave) and the cheung fun is excellent (we tried the one with prawns wrapped in deed fried bean curd sheets - lovely contrast of textures). On top of the dim sum, you can also order an array of alcoholic drinks and get everything outside of the normal brunch/lunch hours of most dim sum restaurants.
The one drawback is the price. It's quite expensive compared to other dim sum houses but it's worth the quality you get. A good addition to the area!
We popped in here by chance as we parked up to go to Fujiyama. We peered in to the spartan hardwood interior and it looked cool, whilst the menu looked exotic and more than tempting.
We're happy to report that the food was exceptional, the service friendly and looking at the drinks menu I can't wait to bring some friends here of an evening on that rare occasion we manage a babysitter.
This place was okay... If it was around the corner from my house then I'd probably go there again, but we traveled 30 minutes on a bus to give it a try and I don't think I'd do that again. Food was okay but not amazing, the place was completely dead so we kind of felt like just eating and getting out of there. Service was OK.
THey accommodated our large party of 17. Food was nice and tasty for newcomers to dim sum but not entirely authentic. Overall, great atmosphere and the service wasnt too bad.
Courtesan offers the finest modern Dim Sum and carefully selected teas, wines and mixed drinks for discerning ladies and gentlemen of adventure.
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