The Walworth Road has seen all sorts down the years – the Labour Party headquarters, industrial amounts of ducking and diving – but it’s inconceivable that’s it has ever played host to a better Chinese restaurant than this one.
Dragon Castle is in a big, modern building just a short walk from the scenic heart of Elephant and Castle. The restaurant itself is high-ceilinged, reasonably but not weirdly ornate (enormous chandeliers and blood-red lanterns abound) and very, very long but only quite wide: tinted windows allowing a glimpse of, well, not much really, run along one side. Staff are plentiful and quite helpful, albeit they do have an annoying tendency to keep re-filling (and over filling – it’s not supposed to be full to the brim) your wine glass.
On Saturday nights, Dragon Castle is busy but not overwhelmingly so. Tables are a respectful distance apart and the high ceiling ensures that it never gets too loud. Most notable is the clientele: this must have the most multicultural crowd in the whole city. Very refreshing.
Chinese food, popular as it undeniably is, suffers a little from the widely-held perception that it is full of MSG. That doesn’t appear to be the case at Dragon Castle: most dishes are light in a way that you’d not expect from a more traditional high-street establishment. The menu does feature some slightly dull options – the set menus are full of them – but there’s a variety of more interesting Cantonese dishes if you’re prepared to be only a tiny little bit adventurous.
Dragon Castle is renowned for its lunchtime dim sum, so it’s no real surprise that the steamed prawn and pork dumplings are light and succulent. Also good are the deep-fried crab and prawn, which come with a salty, succulent Worcester sauce-style, er, sauce.
Chicken with mango, lime, chilli and coriander is as fresh and light as it sounds: the chicken is soft and tender, not plastic-y as so often in Chinese restaurants. The rice is soft and fragrant. Most highly recommended, though, is a whole St Peter’s fish (another name for John Dory) smothered in a rich, sweet soy-infused sauce. It is utterly delicious, and a world apart from chicken chow mein.
There’s the normal range of beers, of which the crisp, dry Tsing Tao is probably the pick to accompany Chinese food. But the best option, for my money, is a bottle of the keenly-priced, refreshing Muscadet, which is perfectly pitched for the food.
The Last Word
Dragon Castle is a truly superb place, an oasis of high-quality, reasonably priced food amidst the not-quite-as-grim as north Londoners would think environs of Elephant and Castle.