A month ago, Jon and I went to see the highly-entertaining (popular, even) Pop Life exhibit at the Tate Modern, and afterwards, we somehow reasoned that because Elephant & Castle was so “close by,” we should try out Dragon Castle for dinner, which TimeOut loved.
So we hopped on the Northern Line at London Bridge and emerged two stops later at Elephant & Castle station, which sounds so wondrous on the map, but in fact is rather gritty. Navigating the hulking roundabout just outside the station makes Old Street roundabout look like a picturesque jaunt through the countryside.
In any event, stepping inside Dragon Castle restaurant, we found ourselves in a large old-school Chinese banquet hall — the type with the double happiness symbol in the back, where enormous wedding banquets can take place. The place was busy and noisy (not least because of several birthday parties taking place there. Be warned that the restaurant insists on periodically blasting a recorded version of “Happy Birthday” for such groups).
Having just eaten at the Michelin-starred Kai earlier that week, I was especially astounded by how inexpensive all of Dragon Castle’s menu items were. Jon and I can never resist roast duck, and Dragon Castle’s was a mixed bag. The duck we ordered had a great texture but could’ve used more flavoring. A little more soy sauce and sugar would’ve been perfect.
Jon and I also have a weakness for clay pot dishes, which I suppose means we have a lot in common with elderly Chinese people. The “Japanese tofu” in the clay pot we ordered was so luscious and silky that it was more like a custard than any tofu I’ve had before. The salted fish and chicken were tender and enriched the sauce. As the weather grows colder and rainier, this is the dish I’m going to crave.
I loved the way the veg choices are presented at Dragon Castle. You picked a green and then picked how you wanted it prepared. We played it straight by ordering gai lan with a classic garlic sauce. An enormous portion and beautifully done. Cooked so it wasn’t raw but still retained crunch.
Our servers were all super nice and attentive. Tap water was refilled regularly without our noticing, which is a feat most restaurants in London can’t seem to accomplish. For the price and quality of the food, Dragon Castle was worth braving the grimness of Elephant & Castle (and the occasional blast of Happy Birthday). Now, if only they’d add General Tso’s chicken to the menu . . . .
Dragon Castle, 100 Walworth Street, SE17 1JL; 020 7277 3388; closest tube station: Elephant & Castle