Min Jiang, why haven’t I visited you before?? Maybe because you are in South Ken and I don’t really go west of Marble Arch BUT I may need to start making some exceptions. Because of you! Where else can I hang out with the South African rugby team (apparently they stay at the Royal Garden Hotel whenever they are in town) AND stuff myself with only two of my most favorite things in the world: dim sum and roast duck!
The views from Min Jiang over Hyde Park were stunning on the day we visited — London at its autumnal finest. In the distance, we could see all of London’s tall buildings. I could have sat in the bar forever, drinking Min Jiang’s excellent Mai Tais, and watching the leaves turn more golden and more brown.
Because the restaurant is a narrow space, it’s hard not to have a table with a view but should you book a table (and you should), make sure to ask for a table by the window because really, the views are that pretty. London, I forget how beautiful you are sometimes. (To be honest, I really don’t forget. But it’s still nice to be reminded.)
We did not choose our own food so you will have to rely on the detailed notes over on London Unattached for a complete list of everything we ate. Fiona very capably got the restaurant staff to point out what was arriving with each dish. I always find it a little odd when restaurants invite people like us in and then don’t provide us with any information about what we’re having and don’t seem to want us to take a menu either.)
Now, although I am slightly scolding Min Jiang for not being as prepared for us social media beings as they should have been, I have to say that I really, really, really loved our slightly omniscient server, who told us later in the meal that he’d been with Min Jiang for five years. He’s a keeper, that one.
As dim sum should be, our lunch started off with a veritable parade of dim sum. Soup dumplings, pot stickers, baked char siew puffs (can’t. stop. eating. them.), and an assortment of steamed dumplings. The highlight for me though was the yam croquette with seafood. I remember asking if it was taro and I could swear someone said yes so is taro yam? I had no idea! (LMGTFY…apparently, taro and yam are not exactly the same.)
While we were very happily demolishing all the dim sum, I kept wondering…where is the duck? What will the duck be like? When is the duck coming?
Our lovely server
And it came, along with a very shy chef who wasn’t too keen on having his photo taken. (That’s our server in the photo.) But suffice it to say the shy chef’s carving skills are excellent. The duck was — as duck is supposed to be — beautiful. Crispy skin, and darkly dark flavors.
While our shy chef was carving up the duck, I watched him take small choice bits that he carved from the neck and set them aside. These were presented to us along with a small bowl of sugar. If you’ve never considered dipping your duck in sugar, YOU REALLY SHOULD. It was pretty amazing. Stick a fork in me, I was done.
But we weren’t done! There was more! Was this one of the best days of my entire life? I wasn’t quite sure, but I was sure that if life on earth had ended at that moment — as it sort of had because the US election and had just happened and now Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States — I would have died a very happy woman. Tiger prawns, a beef dish, and some asparagus with lotus root completed our lunch.
And then they brought us dessert! Flaky egg tarts, cutesy sesame dumplings shaped like mice, and a little dessert wine too.
May all our meals be this delicious, this varied, and this interesting.
Guys, I have a new obsession. I love The Sichuan on City Road, halfway between Moorgate and Old Street. (At Worship Street, if you know it.) I want to eat at The Sichuan all the time now. I love it. I mean, firstly, I love Sichuan food in general. But secondly, I really just love the location and the offering. Sometimes, I like the staff. The sweet guy on my first visit, who was from Chengdu himself, has been my favorite. Other times, I have been somewhat unlucky. That being said…if you had to choose, what you would rather? Friendly, efficient service or someone who actually knows the food? (Ideally, of course, I’d like both but what if you had to choose???)
Most of all, besides liking the food, I like the prices. A small bowl of dan dan noodles for £4.50!! A very large serving of ma po tofu for £7.50! It’s truly amazing. If I still worked across the street like I did for many years, I would eat here EVERY DAY. Every day. Check out the lunch menu! Did I mention they are open on weekends? A sit-down Chinese restaurant on City Road — and a Sichuan one to boot — that is open on weekends during the day? It’s like my dream has finally come true!
The chef used to be at Bar Shu. Also, Hutong at The Shard. So he’s the real deal. And so is his food. Note that the decor is nothing spectacular, and neither are the loos.
The Verdict: You should go. Look for me. I’ll probably be there.
Hakkasan Hanway Place was seriously one of the first restaurants I ever went to in London as an adult. (My 1993 London visit while I was in university doesn’t count for anything. One day, I’ll tell you about the sleeping arrangements.) My first visit to Hakkasan was in 2001 when I was here from the States for six weeks for work and the “Design Guy” came over and took us all out to Hakkasan and paid too. He must have read about the restaurant in one of those design magazines because this was 2001 after all, before blogs and Yelp and all those other Internet-Web-App things. My, how times have changed.
All these years later though and Hakkasan itself has not changed all that much. It’s still the darkly sexy place it once was and I still get a little freaked out when I try to find the door to the loos. Ah! They’re behind that wall/door thing! I get it! Hakkasan has also expanded, thanks to our friends at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, a very sovereign and very wealthy sovereign wealth fund. If I were Mr. Yau, I would roll around in all my money all the live long day. Maybe, just maybe, I’d buy a small island somewhere. A tropical one.
Only we really didn’t have to order much except for some cheung fun. Because Hakkasan Hanway Place is offering a new Sunday set brunch special. And it’s an amazingly good value, even though this is going to seem like a big number when I tell you the number…
It’s £58 quid. And it is so so worth it because…
For £58 quid, you get all this…per person!
Choice of cocktail
Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV Champagne, France 12% half bottle
Choice of after dinner cocktail
Crispy duck salad with pomelo, pine nut and shallot
Chinese chive dumpling
Duck and yam bean dumpling
Royal king crab and truffle roll
Baked venison puff
Smoked duck and pumpkin puff
Golden radish crab meat pastry
XO seafood and water chestnut lettuce wrap
Stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef with merlot
Ginger and spring onion fried rice
Selection of dessert
If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is. For £58 quid!! I mean, like I said, I know that’s a big number, but talk about getting your money’s worth!! Sure, there are some misses on the menu — I didn’t die over the lettuce wraps — but there are more hits than misses and that counts for something. Check out the full menu online and then drop into Hakkasan on a Sunday afternoon and then roll yourself home! Vegetarian menu available.
The Verdict: Nothing not to like!
I was a guest of Fiona’s and Hakkasan. I did not pay for my meal but I did tip on the full amount.
Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and say to myself, “I wish I could have Chinese food for breakfast.” I consider heading to Chinatown to see what’s open. I know Royal China on Baker Street opens at 11 am on Sundays but that is too late.
Enter Chinese Laundry on Upper Street! They will be open from 8:30 am during the week! And they’ll serve Chinese breakfast! Like Chinese pancakes. And buns! This seems like the answer to my prayers, but yet…only MY prayers. Will other people want to eat Chinese pancakes so early in the day? (Particularly the denizens of Islington?) I am not so sure. I would love to see the market sizing on this one.
Right now, the restaurant is in soft launch mode, and the only thing they are serving is all day Chinese breakfast. If I were a real restaurant critic, I would not write about a restaurant in soft launch mode. But I’m not a real restaurant critic am I? So there you go. I dropped in at 12 on a Thursday and despite many people staring at the menu in the window, I was the only one in the place. I had a pleasant table looking out onto Upper Street (and all the people staring in the window) and guess what? I had the Chinese pancake. And a pork belly baozi, which was absolutely huge and a little too bready for me. But the Chinese pancake was delicious and whoever fried that egg knew what they were doing.
I like the idea of Chinese Laundry, and I like the kitschy decor. I’m just not so sure other people will like the idea of Chinese Laundry. I guess that means more Chinese food for breakfast for me, but I hope I am not their only customer.
The other week, A Girl Has to Eat and I dined at The Duck & Rice together and decided that rather than both write reviews, she would let me borrow hers! Here is the text of her review…I’ve added some of my other thoughts at the very end…
The Duck and Rice is the latest outlet by design supremo and superstar restaurateur Alan Yau who is best known for the Michelin starred Chinese restaurants Hakkasan and Yauatcha,and the high street dining chains Wagamamas and Busaba Eathai. With The Duck and Rice, Yau pays “homage to the ‘holy’ [sic] British drinking establishment” by converting what was once the rather shabby Endurance Pub into a modern day boozer on the ground floor and a funky Chinese restaurant on the first. (KN note: I don’t understand why the restaurant uses [sic] in that sentence on their website.)
It’s an interesting new approach to Chinese eating, and it certainly adds a new twist to the concept of east meets west. I went to The Duck and Rice with Krista from Passportdelicious.com and we both agreed that we loved the ambience of the restaurant. It was very COOL with a dynamic energy that made it a great dining venue. Krista was happy for me to order and so I did my best to order as much food as I could with the £50 that received for writing about the UNCOVER app.
We started with some sesame prawn toast (£6.50) which had been recommended in many reviews. These proved to be really enjoyable and had been expertly prepared with a generous spread of tasty and well-seasoned minced prawn topping. The sesame seeds worked well to complement the flavour of the prawns, and the toast was crispy and admirably did not taste oily.
Venison puffs (£4.80) are a take on another dim sum classic, the char sui (BBQ pork) puff, and here they were delicious, packing in lots of great flavour. The sauce in the filling had the right level of consistency and sweetness and was very authentic tasting. However the pastry was ever so slightly underdone and not quite flaky enough. A few more minutes of cooking time and these could have been perfect.
Jasmine smoked pork ribs (£14) were sublimely tender with a great flavour. But the ribs needed more sauce, and the sauce needed more spicing. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed the ribs. We both agreed it was better to have good quality ribs that were well cooked with not enough sauce, rather than badly cooked ribs with too much sauce.
A dish of wasabi prawns (£10.50) contained some good quality battered prawns that were sweet and meaty. But we didn’t enjoy the wasabi mayonnaise that came with the prawns as it was too rich and a little sickly. Serving the mayonnaise as a dipping sauce would probably have worked better. This would have also meant that the batter on the prawns would have stayed crunchier for longer.
Our final dish was the No23 (a reference to how in some Chinese restaurants you order by the number). The No23 was a chicken chow mein (£9.50) which we both found a little disappointing as it tasted flat. The dish lacked for that fragrant (香), almost slightly caramelised effect that you normally get with really well cooked Chinese wok noodles, and this usually comes from having the right level of wok heat.
We both enjoyed The Duck and Rice, especially for its great ambience and funky vibe. As for the food, notwithstanding some weak spots in the cooking, this was fairly tasty with the occasional glimpses of authenticity. The service was pleasant and friendly, and far better than what you would get in a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. Price wise, we were rather impressed with ourselves for managing to order as much food as we did for about £50. That said we found the 13% service charge (rather than the standard 12.5%) to be quite cheeky.
Food rating: 3.5/5
Service rating: 3.5/5
(Hi…it’s Krista again…)
So A Girl Has to Eat and I were pretty much in agreement on all of the dishes, although it’s fair to say that I probably would have rated this on an overall basis more like a 3 than a 3.5. When you start thinking that your local Chinese take-away does a better job than Duck & Rice, well, that tells you something.
Also, we had a small snafu when we first arrived that A Girl Has to Eat doesn’t mention, and I really want to talk about it. We arrived at the restaurant just in time for our booking, and I forget if I said this or if AGHTE said this but one of us said, “Oh, and do you have a note about our voucher with Uncover? There should be a note in our reservation about our £50 voucher?” We were very polite in asking this and remained polite throughout. The female host though was kinda rude. She told us that there was no note and she would know about it. At which point I said something like, “I have the email confirmation from the PR. I can show it to you…” and she really didn’t even want to see it, and repeated that if indeed there was a voucher, she would know about it. At that point, I think I said, “Maybe there’s a manager you check with? I really do have an email from the PR and I’d be happy to show it to you…” Can you guess what she said next? You guessed it…she reminded us that she would know about the voucher. She didn’t even give us a chance! Then, all of a sudden, a nice young man appeared out of nowhere and said “Do you mean the Uncover voucher? Yes, they called earlier. It’s all sorted. Follow me.” He apologized to us but I just go so mad at the woman at the front. I hate when people insist that they are right to the point of not even giving someone a chance. And well, once she realized she was wrong, I expected more from her.
The pace of change. For years, my stretch of City Road in London was desolate. Empty. There was a Pret a Manger, but not much else. We got excited when the pixtos place opened up, but after too many bad meals there, we were no longer so keen. And then I left the city. And everything good happened. The dodgy Chinese ballroom became Rotary Diner (more on that some other day), and the dodgy Chinese takeaway window became YUM BUN. And Yum it is. Very, very yum.
Yum and PACKED. My colleague Echo warns me we must go early or else we must wait. And we do go early. But still we wait. The queue is deep. But for £7.50, we get two buns and some pot stickers and we sit in the window of the old dodgy Chinese ballroom and watch the hipsters cycle through the Silicon Roundabout and I wonder…why are my lunches in America so f*cking boring.
And then I also wonder WHAT IF, but then I get sad so we leave.