It is so refreshing to find a restaurant in Oxford that is truly authentic; you won’t find the modern British twist on the spring roll or the ‘chinese’ pie and chips here. When you walk into Liaison, untouched by the hoards of Saturday shoppers, you see Chinese people of all generations. They may be talking loudly, eating with their mouths open and waving their chopsticks wildly, but this is a good sign. My companion and I have turned up for dim sum, the brunchtime/lunchtime Chinese
equivalent of tapas. Ignoring the English menu, I somehow get away with impressing my companion, a quadrilingual blonde Dane who also reads Latin and Greek, with my (faltering) order in Chinese. A delightful start. My childhood favourite, char siu bau, are white fluffy buns filled with pork and sweet char siu sauce. This dish is a brilliant way to break someone new into dim sum; so inoffensive yet so moreish. The prawn dumplings wrapped in rice flour paper, and the pork dumplings too, vanish as soon as they arrive. The next bamboo container houses lotus leaves that parcel glutinous rice with long slices of chicken bursting with steam and flavour. Try the Vietnamese spring roll if you fancy a change from the traditional. Crispier, with different skin, it is rather interesting. I don’t let my companion leave without trying the customary chickens’ feet in black bean sauce. She displays her adventurous spirit by knocking back not just one but two feet. We end with Chinese egg custard tart, not too sweet, and very, very light. Socially, this is top draw; food for sharing with lots of mess and fun. This charming venue is packed with friendly staff who bustle about refilling the teapot whenever the lid is half open. The dim sum is simply superb. And there is always the doggy bag when one realises just what it is that one has ordered.ARCHIVE: 1st week TT 2004