Fu Manchu

June 17, 2015

15 – 16 Lendal Terrace, Clapham, London, SW4 7UX

Being in the latest dim sum hive feels like partaking in a threesome that just isn’t enjoyable. In theory, two men at once sounds like every girl’s dream but when it comes to it you just end up feeling like a fleshy Chinese finger trap. Fu Manchu is Clapham’s latest contribution to the casual-esque bar scene. Fu wants to be dressed as an opium den but function as a late night Chinese with a fully stocked bar. That is the stuff dreams are made of. But as I stand waiting patiently for my drink and a glimpse of a dumpling, I just don’t enjoy it.

Fu Manchu is located inside a tunnel within stumbling distance of Clapham North tube station. Being in attendance on launch night, I find it hard to gather what types of people are going to come here. I imagine 20-somethings or Tinder dates judging by the pristine décor and politely reserved bar staff. It looks a good shade of seedy and if I had my ears sewn shut it would actually feel like an opium den with its dark red lighting paired with exposed brick walls. Fabulous. But one blast of the bass from the closest speaker and I’m not in Beijing anymore.

Funky house music floods the Fu Manchu tunnel and crashes into a beach vibe. I begin to imagine bikinis, batman pills and an after party in Ibiza, which seems far from Fu Manchu’s intention. But this late night Chinese restaurant is to host club-style nights that continue until 3am on the weekends. It sure has the space to host a wild party but I find the whole idea a bit schizophrenic. Does Fu want to be a sexy 18th Century Oriental den or a bass-heavy nightclub?

Other than the atmosphere’s identity crisis this bar stocks pure oriental delight in the form of authentic cuisine. Steam baskets full of homemade Dim Sum are being carried through the crowd. The problem is that they are so good that everyone is suddenly behaving like a bunch of fiends. I watch as the waitress struggles to make her way past the people pleading with their eyes to be fed. The dumplings are as addictive as opium.

Fu Manchu Bar Review

I am thoroughly enjoying the small portions that I manage to grab. I try a Xiao Long Bao that has more water retention than a pregnant lady and proceeds to burst all over my lap. The crab juice begins soaking into my trousers causing me to stink of fish and gain some filthy looks.  Luckily, they offer a fried and baked variety, which are just as delicious but without the water sports.

The cocktails are named after British author Sax Rohmer’s book titles like the bar’s name (for those not in the know, Fu Manchu is Rohmer’s fictional evil genius that became very popular in the ‘30s comics for being a mastermind whilst sporting a great moustache). Even though the bar staff are new and the turn out is great, the time I spend waiting for a drink is unforgivable. I finally get around to tasting their Mai Chai which was rum mixed with Chai Tea syrup. All of the cocktails are made with Chinese tea infusions, and this one is perfectly blended into a sweet orange refreshing twist on a Mai Tai. I recommend the Fu Manchu Mind Control just for its impressive tiki style presentation. It’s made with a special grog and tastes fairly tropical.

The other cocktails are thrilling but I have to order the obligatory Orient spirit, Sake. I take one sip and my mind is gone, for fucks Sake. Suddenly, I don’t care about straining my vocal chords and struggling to be heard over what sounds like a Hed Kandi CD. I take this as a cue to leave. It’s worth heading here to taste the cuisine, but night-time is reserved for somewhere a little less Ibiza, a little more leather.