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Dragon Castle

100 Walworth Rd, London, SE17 1JL Directions

Tel 020 7277 3388
   Open today 12:00 - 23:00

Business overview

Dragon Castle occupies the ground floor of a large modern building and serves authentic Cantonese cuisine in a relaxed and sophisticated setting.


Image of Dragon Castle


Not for Me

Service was at 90 mph. Fast food was an understatement. We had out starters as the drinks were thrown at us. We would have been more relaxed in a burgar bar.
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A disappointment.

There is rarely a distance too far when it comes to matters of the stomach, however I do not often find myself South of the Thames and Elephant and Castle is just not a pretty area of London. A photographer was arrested there in January for posing an “unacceptable security risk.” As a known local Artist he had been photographing the evolution of the area for 25 years. Be warned. With this in mind, Dragon Palace roars with credible recommendations – Jay Rayner (2006), Giles Coren (2006), and most recently Time Out (2009). Even heralded as the best Dim Sum in London by some and the most enjoyable Cantonese food in London by others.

Dim Sum for two had turned into six and we had well over 25 dishes, so there was plenty for all. But the dim sum was forgettable. The few dishes that I have tended to judge any Dim Sum restaurant by were either standard or below par. Fried foods should be hot, crispy and fresh. Steamed dumplings should arrive steaming and burn the roof of my mouth off and their contents should be plump, bouncy and explode with flavour. The Wu Kok arrived only luke warm and what should’ve been a fluffy and crispy batter, whilst light, was flabby and soft. Like most Chinese food, I want it to arrive and burn the roof of my mouth off. Prawn, char siu and fried dough fritter cheong fun were again average. The noodle had sufficient bite but the fillings weren’t outstanding. Cold chicken feet really don’t do anything for me at the best of times. I do however love Fung Jau, which we didn’t order. The beef hor fun with black bean sauce and green peppers was just too salty and portions of Char Siu Pork and Roast Duck were average again.

Dim Sum is about convivial times over great food and good conversation was had. But there are plenty of places in London that one can get Chinese food and with the invasion of sanitised and westernised versions like Ping Pong, standards of Dim Sum have arguably been challenged. Yauatcha is good but just too expensive and in a surrounding just too sterile for spilling tea and making that mess with your chilli oil and soy sauce. Royal China is ok. Leaving Pearl Liang as the most universally applauded Dim Sum venue in London. Wherever it may be, attentive and friendly service should not be at a premium, unfortunately the waiting staff had a real problem with bringing us water and being first to arrive the staff were notably shocked with disgust that I hadn’t made a reservation for my expanded group. Twenty notes a head really is quite an outlay for Dim Sum but that’s just an indication of overeating. So, is this a question of value or quality? Both, and Dragon Palace hasn’t won me over on either this time.
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I've said it before and I'll say it again, dim sum is one of the genuine - and depressingly rare - gourmet bargains of London. Yesterday at Dragon Castle, a cavernous and clattering space on the otherwise bleak Walworth Road, six of us worked our way through 26 individual plates of dim sum, as well as three huge servings of roast pork, roast duck and stir-fry beef in black bean sauce, washed down with a beer or two. The bill came to about £20 a head. Even if the food hadn't been universally tasty and enjoyable (it was) or the service smart and timely (it was, aside from a strange reluctance to bring us water), you still wouldn't have much to complain about at just over £2 per exquisitely constructed plate of bitesize loveliness.

Sometimes I wonder how these dim sum joints make any money at all, considering the time and skill that must go into their creations. Steamed har gau dumplings, ethereally translucent and containing crunchy fresh veg and minced pork; delicately steamed siu mai, meticulously uniform, with a fresh prawn flavour; char sui buns, impossibly fluffy and containing a heady filling of smokey pig; there is someone in the kitchens at Dragon Castle with years and years of experience studiously checking each and every dish and making sure they all arrive at the table piping hot. And then they charge £2 each for them. It's madness.

Even the slightly more off-piste selections managed to impress. Chicken feet were carefully boned and served cold in a tomato-chilli sauce which brought to mind Spanish calamari tapas. Tripe, also served cold, matched the moreish texture of perfectly cooked meat with a fragrant dressing, and slices of turnip paste was ever so slightly crispy on the outside and gooey and flavoursome within.

By the time the larger plates of roasted protein arrived, we were reaching capacity, but the sight of the perfectly browned duck and colourful stack of beef and black bean was too good to resist. The duck in particular had an almost overwhelming intensity of flavour, and an unbeatable combination of crispy skin and moist flesh. I just about managed to stuff a single slice of char sui (pork) into my mouth before my stomach surrendered and I was forced to admit defeat. Others managed desserts of mango pudding and sago - I have no idea how.

My enjoyment of, and gratitude towards the generosity of places like Dragon Castle is tempered only with the memory of hideous, sloppily presented meals I've suffered elsewhere for far more money. It's baffling how restaurants with such a different concept of value can exist side by side in the same city. Compare, for example, the array of superbly constructed treats shown above the plate of tasteless grey gunge masquerading as 'Duck in tomato sauce' at Polpo.

Yes, it's a terrible photo but it really did taste as bad as it looks. From Dragon Castle we wobbled home uncomfortably distended and not much worse off financially, sated and happy. At Polpo we spent more money per head and left so hungry we had to stop for ribs and chicken wings at Bodean's on the way home - I'm not kidding.

So I hope it's not too dull to leave yet another near-perfect score to yet another Asian restaurant, but that's just the way things seem to be working out these days. As much as I like a solid British gastropub or French bistro, the fact is that in terms of sheer value for money it's always the Asian places (well, at least Chinese, Pakistani, Indian and Vietnamese) that consistently offer the best deals. At Golden Dragon you will find a large menu of exquisitely prepared dim sum, served in pleasant surroundings, and costing a pittance. What's not to like?
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Slowly Going Down Hill

I’ve been going to Dragon Castle regularly since it opened, at least once a month over several years, that’s a lot of dim sum.

Though it’s has had to go through a rough patch... or two... or three... okay, there have been lots of them, it has always managed to just make itself redeemable before my husband and I have thrown in the towel.

However there is no coming back from it’s current rough patch.

Over the last year I have seen a change in staff and in the quality of food, and neither has been for the better.

There is a new head waiter and he is disorganised and discourteous. Today, whilst quietly waiting for our table, watched two groups of people walk out.

The first group because they had been over looked twice, intentionally as it turns out. The customer questioned why two tables of the same number of people had been let in before her group. The head waiter replied that that was because they wanted a table for 6, but clearly there were only 5 of them so they would get their table when the 6th member arrived. The head waiter was then informed that the 6th member had been outside for the last half an hour smoking. The head waiter then said that he didn’t know that, and the customer then sort clarification as to whether or not they had been waiting for over an hour due to his incorrect assumptions, to which the head waiter neither replied nor apologised. They justifiably asked why they weren’t told that that was why they had been looked over twice, but the head waiter once again did not respond. They then waited for the head waiter to apologise and to take them to a table when another group of 6 walk in. The head waiter immediately took that second group of six to a table. The first group of six then just walked out.

The second group that walked out had been waiting over an hour for a table which they had made reservations for. I know this for sure, as they were there before me. One of the members of that group stayed behind and told the head waiter how disappointed they were, especially considering they were also a party for 6. The head waiter once again didn’t apologise.

I then looked up and saw to my surprise several empty tables for two. I asked the head waiter if those tables for two were reserved and when he said no, my husband and I decided to walk out too. We had waited 40 minutes and it was clear to us that the head waiter had not only forgotten us, but didn’t remember us when prompted.

Chinese food is not hard to find, neither is reasonable service which Dragon Castle sadly, no longer has.
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Consistently good every time

Discovering good Dim Sum restaurants is something of a pleasurable past time for me and having been to Dragon Castle a few times I can honestly say its one of my favourites. The Dim Sum is always consistently good, I have tried racking my brains for some criticism but I actually have nothing to fault the food. The standard dishes such as Shao Mai stood out for me - I like the chunky bits of fresh prawn i found in them - Vietnamese spring rolls and the turnip paste were to die for. On Saturday, the bill came to £26, for 10 plates of very yummy Dim Sum, service and tea. The restaurant is situated about 5 mins walk from Elephant & Castle tube station on the Walworth road, a suprising place for a restaurant that is almost the size of an aircraft hanger although the space is well utilised. Having been painted a dubious petrol blue colour on the outside you could almost miss it except for the brash giant red doors that give its ethnicity away.

Perhaps one thing that might like to think about is to experiment with some new dishes as it doesn't have such an extensive menu as Royal China. What it does do though, it does exceptionally well. Do try.
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