He may be an evil, criminal genius, have caused political controversy and influenced the mastermind tache, but Fu Manchu actually has new boots to fill in the heart of Clapham. With half the thuggish cackle and double the dim sum, I tried to leave 60s cinema aside and eat my dinner instead.
Housed in an archway plot, Fu Manchu felt reflective and atmospherically reminiscent of the Sax Rohmer character's secret lair, even if they weren't necessarily going for that. Charming, intimate and warming thanks to their backstreet whereabouts, Fu Manchu is a blend of art, industrial spark and low-lighting that keeps to modern interiors with a raw and welcoming edge. While at times the venue came across as a little TOO large for dining thanks to a double dose of raised areas and large clearances, they are a club night and music host too, so you can't have everyone waving their dim sum in the air like they just don't care, space will after all be key.
The Food and Drink
Dim sum is a choice made for the desperately dinner jealous, and Fu Manchu clearly make sure that everyone is catered for, no matter their taste. Well, as long as their taste is Asian of course. The great thing about dim sum is trying something different every time, and Fu Manchu had a roster of plates that really interested us on the night. With a handy guide on the menu, the restaurant helped us through the general pattern of plates to try: 1 fried, 1 baked, 2 steamed, 1 soup.
I've this thing about soup, so while skipping the recommendation, we tried our hand at curried vegetable dumplings with a purple crystal skin (3.80), pork and crab sauced dumplings (£6.00), king prawn dumplings, mixed vegetable spring rolls (£4.00). All traditionally served, Fu Manchu are the hammer to the night out nail. Providing a really concise and open menu, we were really chuffed with our selection and the high ranking of food. While my winner was the sauced dumplings thanks to their packing and rich flavour, vegetarians dare not miss the crunchy vegetables in a bean curd skin (£3.80) for a slightly wet yet stunning blend of traditional and approachable spices.
The team really rate their bar back in Fu Manchu, and we can give that very same nod. With their own whisky and a specially curated cocktail list, Fu Manchu have no time for cocktail imposters. Cocktails to note? From their Mandarin Mimosa topped with a dash of champagne, their kumquat and vodka fronting Bride of Fu Manchu (a must for sour palates) to their Mexican/Asian twist, the Dragon Fruit Paloma (£9) with tequila and cocchi americano; Fu Manchu have a reflective and interactive drinks menu to be proud of.
Hump day isn't normally a happy day for restaurants, but Fu Manchu's flow didn't seem to hinder. Sure, bums on seats are more dispersed than any other weekday in the city, but with the ominous oriental glow and low sloping archway ceilings, Fu Manchu clearly makes and enviroment for itself on intimate interiors alone. You won't get any training chopsticks in here (£2 at Tiger, you're welcome), but you will get a team of highly-trained staff willing to help you along the way; even if their pronunciation isn't always on the side of the authentic, you just try whispering Wai Fa Chi Mar Har into a strangers ear.
While the re-purposing of derelict spaces is the 'in' thing for London restaurants (if only the city housing market would consider the same), Fu Manchu doesn't seem trudge along in the hope that its industrial space will do the work for them. With service just right, more than value for money, a back bar that they've specially curated and nicely steamed nuggets they're all that, and dim sum.