Before now, you’d have to catch the train to Manchester for a decent bao – until top-rated street food chef Rob McIntyre decided that Stoke-on-Trent was the place to set up his Asian-inspired dumpling joint.
Little Dumpling King finally opened its doors in Hanley’s Cultural Quarter – after much social media anticipation – on Friday, July 29. The Piccadilly eatery joins a fantastic lineup of bars and restaurants in the CQ, making neighbours with the likes of Klay, North, Bloom, The Slamwich Club, Bottlecraft and The Gin Rummy.
Inspired by Asian-fusion, Little Dumpling King brings something really fresh, new and exciting to the city centre, and has been packed out since the moment the doors opened. And rightly so, too.
The seasoned street-food chef previously worked in the kitchen of Chester’s top-rated eatery Meltdown, which specialises in gourmet toasties. During the Coronavirus lockdown, between making meals for the homeless, Rob launched a pop-up dumpling delivery business to earn some extra cash while money was tight.
He said: “I needed to supplement my income like everyone else. I was working at Meltdown and used the kitchen after hours to do dumplings. I would cook and my mates and girlfriend would deliver.”
In May, it was announced that Rob would take over 50 Piccadilly, Hanley, which was formerly The Orchard bar and bistro. Foodies had been peering through the window for signs of updates for weeks, and now, the transformation is complete and the chef couldn’t be more excited to be open.
Rob added: “Given everything that’s going on in the world I appreciate it might seem a weird time for this gaff but I fully believe it’ll be embraced round here. Hanley’s class.”
The venue has had a complete overhaul, with black walls and ceiling tiles, red wooden chairs and skateboards hanging from the walls. It feels unlike any other venue in the city centre, and I can imagine it would lend itself well to live DJ sets with craft beer and small plates on weekends, too.
The menu is small but well crafted, offering two choices of dumplings – veggie or meat – and four baos, including three meat options and one veggie. The menus are still being tinkered with, but will likely change ‘every six weeks or so’, said Rob.
On the drinks menu, there’s a handful of craft beers, a choice of red or white organic wine, and a selection of soft drinks. We opted for lemonades before pondering the food menu where I ordered the pork dumplings and chicken bao, while veggies Anya and Leah went for the vegetable dumplings and cauliflower bao.
Plates cost between £6.25 and £7.95, but the portions are ample, meaning you could go for one plate for lunch or a lighter meal or mix and match your bao and dumplings for a bigger appetite – either way the most you’ll pay is around £15. Equally, if there’s a group of you, you could order one of everything and pick at all of the different flavours and split the cost.
The steamed pork dumplings feature the LDK signature pork mince blended with ginger, garlic, sesame oil and herbs served with a crispy chilli oil. The vegetable version was much the same, with cabbage, carrot and mushrooms in place of the pork. You get four Chinese-style dumplings for between £6.25 and £6.85, which is more filling than you’d think. They were extremely tasty and well seasoned, with a spicy kick that hits you just as you’re taking your last mouthful. The dumplings were well executed, presented beautifully and dished out of the kitchen quickly, too. They felt really authentic and I’m really excited to see if Rob will bring any specials to the menu, like his previously popular ‘emo chilli beef bois’.
Meanwhile my fried chicken bao bun come in at £7.25, featuring kimchi and kewpie mayo in a fluffy bao. Kewpie mayo tends to use just yolks and has a custardy texture, and added a really nice flavour to the dish.
The chicken was really moist with a crispy coating, filling the bun which was seasoned with chives and garnished with a chilli. Having demolished the dumplings first, I struggled to finish my bao but it was deliciously fluffy, with interesting, thoughtful textures and flavours.
Little Dumpling King is in good company on Piccadilly, where businesses are working together to make Hanley a really thriving cultural and foodie hub. The addition of Asian-fusion food brings a unique dining experience to the city centre and I’m really excited to see LDK grow. It’s a cracking little space in a central location serving up top-notch food for affordable prices with a relaxed vibe and good beer – what more could you possibly ask for?
The restaurant will be open from 5pm to 10pm on Thursdays, 12pm to 10pm Friday and Saturday, and 12pm to 5pm on Sundays. You can follow LKD on Instagram for updates here.