Restaurants where you can bring your own alcohol along are rare, such are the profit-making properties of flogging booze. Hawksmoor let you bring your own wine for £5 a bottle corkage on Mondays, and Foxlow run the same deal on Tuesday. But On Café offers corkage-free BYO all week.
Located close to Clapham Common, and therefore a pleasingly short stagger home for me, On Café serves dim sum, patisserie and macaron. It’s small and understated, but if you’re happy to forego the swisher surroundings of somewhere like Yauatcha, you’ll eat similar quality dim sum at a fraction of the price. The money saved can then be re-invested into wine, which they will lovingly stick in the fridge for you if you arrive with multiple bottles. We took along a rich Russian River Valley chard from Sonoma – bold, buttery, with an aftertaste of coconut, perfect for withstanding subtle spicing.
Among classics such as duck or chicken Shanghai xiao long bao (little dumplings containing spiced meat and soup, which inevitably will dribble out anywhere except into your mouth, no matter how carefully you pierce them) are innovative touches – Thai green curry salmon crystal skin dumplings, or lamb curry masala bao. The latter come as a trio of huge puffy saffron-yellow buns, perfect for sharing, but the Thai green curry dumplings are the one item no-one wants to share, and are subtler than the name suggests. There’s also a rice and noodle selection if you need a hearty dose of carbs, but the stars of the show are the dim sum. They don’t use MSG, preferring to flavour their dim sum with fresh herbs (the king scallop and prawn dumplings with chive and dill are the perfect example of this) and spices, and state on their website that freshly made tofu is used to replace the fatty lard commonly used in dumplings, making them healthier than your average dim sum.
Service is cheerful and friendly, with no evidence of trying to rush or table turn. Unless you are exceptionally greedy or hungry, expect to spend around £15 a head. I am both greedy and eternally hungry, and have not spent more than this in two visits and two deliveries (the tired and the hungover will be thrilled to learn they deliver via Deliveroo or UberEats).
Slow Rating – 10/10
On Cafe – Clapham Park Road