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BreadTalk enters Europe with Din Tai Fung's London flagship

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BreadTalk founder and chairman George Quek (third from right) and Din Tai Fung chairman Yang Chi Hua (third from left) at the opening of the first Din Tai Fung restaurant in London on Dec 5. Also in the photo are UK partner Ben Elliot (far left), Taiwanese partner and designer Song Yih (second from left), former London mayor Boris Johnson (fourth from left), Taiwan's Representative to the UK David Lin (second from right) and UK partner Tristan Hoare (far right).

London

THE Taiwanese restaurant famous for its "xiao long bao" (steamed pork dumplings) opened its doors for the first time in London's West End on Wednesday to much fanfare.

Having already stamped its mark across much of Asia, Australia and the United States, Din Tai Fung is now open for business in the British capital, occupying a two-storey building along Henrietta Street in the lively Covent Garden district.

This is the 153rd Din Tai Fung in the world, and the first of at least two planned restaurants in London. Another restaurant in Centre Point - one of the city's most prominent landmarks - is expected to be ready in the middle of 2019.

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Din Tai Fung's maiden foray into Europe is spearheaded by Taster Food UK Limited, an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore-based BreadTalk Group.

Taster Food's fully-owned subsidiary Together Inc (50.5 per cent) is in a joint venture with Din Tai Fung Restaurant Co (15 per cent), Fairy Rise Development (15 per cent), Stour Crema (7.5 per cent), UK partner Tristan Hoare (7.5 per cent) and Taiwanese partner Song Yih (4.5 per cent).

Among those present on Wednesday for the grand opening of the 250-seater "walk-in only" Covent Garden restaurant - which has a bar serving bespoke cocktails and Chinese tea - were BreadTalk's group chief executive officer Henry Chu and founder and chairman George Quek.

Also at the event was Din Tai Fung chairman Yang Chi Hua, the son of Yang Bingyi who founded the restaurant in Taiwan more than four decades ago.

Mr Chu hailed the new venture as a "major milestone" for the company, with this being the 15th anniversary since Din Tai Fung was established in Singapore, and seven years since the restaurant opened in Thailand. There are 22 branches in Singapore and five in Bangkok, with three more due to open in each city in 2019.

"The group will leverage on our experience of operating Din Tai Fung in Singapore and Thailand, and the strength of our overseas partners to continue the tradition of delivering an authentic Taiwanese dining experience to Londoners," he said.

Speaking at the event, Mr Quek said there is potential to open as many as 20 Din Tai Fung restaurants in the UK alone. "I am hopeful we will get the chance to explore other parts of Europe with Din Tai Fung," he said.

The 8,000 square-foot Covent Garden restaurant has the signature open-concept kitchen where customers can watch chefs prepare the steamed dumplings by wrapping the ingredients in a paper-thin skin and pleating it with a minimum of 18 folds.

The other countries where Din Tai Fung has a footprint are Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, the US and the United Arab Emirates.

Din Tai Fung was founded in 1958 and started off as a cooking oil retail business before it was reborn in 1972 as a restaurant selling noodles and soup dumplings.

The restaurant was named one of the world's top 10 by The New York Times in 1993. In 2010, the brand gained even more prominence after being awarded one Michelin star at its first Hong Kong location.