Let’s talk about My Neighbours The Dumplings for a minute. Fuck me I LOVE this place. I’ve been about ten times and I don’t even live East anymore. First, the atmosphere. It’s CHIC. It’s Lower Clapton Road right, so there’s lots of young, achingly beautiful (and exhausted) parents. There’s a few stray lone wolfs, munching on potstickers contemplatively. There are groups of hip young things getting their wonton fix before a night out. There’s me, and often my mum (she lives across the road so this is our go to place). It’s a real hotpot (they don’t do hotpots).
I’ve been a fistful of times but I’ve only written notes on it once, so let’s talk about that time. It was a Sunday afternoon. The boy and I kicked things off — still sticking with this pescatarian jazz — with har gau dumplings steamed dim sum style. The prawns were juicy as, fresh, the pastry white and translucent. I didn’t like the vinegar dip too much — too overpowering — the boy did tell me to stick to soy but I IGNORED him (he’s half Chinese so I guess he knows his shit).
Next, the crispy prawn won. The stand out dish, and not something I usually order. The prawn was plump, bursting out of delectably crisp batter that cracked and crackled as you chomped. It came with a cute little spoon with a dollop of sweet chilli on it. Of course we asked for more.
Next, the courgette and wood-ear mushroom pot stickers. I couldn’t remember these at first, which made me think they couldn’t have been good. Then I saw a photo and I remembered actually, they were pretty good. Okay, they lacked the porky depth I was accustomed to with dumplings, but since going pescatarian (working towards vegan. S l o w l y) animal fat is just something you have to get over. Here’s a tip — if you have any kind of ragu, add sundried tomatoes. Gives it that meaty depth.
The final delight was the vegetarian turnip cake. OH MY GOD WHY WAS THIS SO GOOD. I don’t like turnip cake, but the boy is all over it. Ive always likened it to an anaemic slab of lard, but firm in texture. Just no. But this — fuck me yes. Flecked with spring onion, it was crispy on the outside with a soft, tearable inner. What a joy.
The fish special didn’t quite do it for me — mackerel with crispy potato. The potato had been tortured into a strange, strangely delicious wonton style better, but the mackerel was too oily, overpowering everything else. I love mackerel but this just didn’t do it for me. A few veg sides were spot on — smacked cucumber salad with a creamy satay sauce, and steamed broccoli with a crisp, umami, onion crumb.
And the sake — fuck, isn’t sake great? Rich, silky smooth, warm — this is what I imagine the ambrosia of the gods tastes like, in all those classics books I studied. Gave me a cracking headache though that didn’t budge for the rest of the day (nothing to do with all the gin I consumed after).
The bill came to £50 with drinks, without service — what a fucking bargain right. I’ve been multiple times since. Oh, also, they’ll go out of their way to accommodate you — my mum is coeliac and everything they serve is drenched in soy (everything) but they’ll remove and replace with Tamari if you ask. I only wish they really were my neighbours. Those guys are the best.
165 Lower Clapton Rd, London E5 8EQ
Four and a half out of five stars