Posts for the 'London' Category

Hakkasan – Chinese New Year Menu

Several months ago I visited Hakkasan Hanway Place to try their delightful Dim Sum Sundays menu. The experience was really enjoyable. Not only was the food good, but there was also plenty of booze to go with the food which made it a really fun way to spend Sunday afternoon. And now, with Chinese New Year upon us, Hakkasan have brought out a Chinese New Year Menu to celebrate the year of the monkey.

As some of you may know, the number 8 is the luckiest number in the Chinese culture as it has a similar pronunciation to the word wealth. Accordingly, this Chinese New Year menu is priced at an auspicious £88.88. The menu begins with a soup, several starters, followed by a selection of mains to share.

The soup was ginseng and chicken with bamboo pith and wolfberries which was really delicious. The broth was clear with a beautiful flavour, and it showed off a wonderfully authentic, masterful touch, with both its choice of traditional Chinese ingredients and also in how it had been prepared.

Hakkasan - London Food Blog - Double boiled fresh Ginseng and chicken soup with bamboo pith and wolfberry

Hakkasan – Double boiled fresh Ginseng and chicken soup with bamboo pith and wolfberry

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The Duck and Rice


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. 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 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 I 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.

The Duck and Rice - London Food Blog - Sesame prawn toast

The Duck and Rice – Sesame prawn toast

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.

The Duck and Rice - London Food Blog - Venison puffs

The Duck and Rice – Venison puffs

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.

The Duck and Rice - London Food Blog - Jasmine smoked ribs

The Duck and Rice – Jasmine smoked ribs

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 work heat.

The Duck and Rice - London Food Blog - No23 Chicken chow mein

The Duck and Rice – No23 Chicken chow mein

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 that we managed to as much as we did for about £50. That said we found the 13% service charge (rather than the standard 12.5%) to be quite cheeky.


1. The sesame prawn toast.
2. The pastry on the venison puffs was admittedly underdone, but the flavour was otherwise excellent.

1. The No.23 Chicken chow mein tasted flat.
2. The 13% rather than the standard 12.5% service charge.

Food rating: 3.5/5
Service rating: 3.5/5

About £25 to £45 per head, excludes drinks and service.


Square Meal

Duck & Rice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Chinese Cricket Club

Chinese Cricket Club is a Chinese restaurant located in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blackfriars, right next to another restaurant I really like, Diciannove 19. The name is unusual as one doesn’t usually associate Chinese food with cricket. But the restaurant is named in honour of the original Chinese National Cricket team which played their first international match in 2009, so there you go.

Unlike some Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, Chinese Cricket Club follows a more contemporary formula with its décor and is very smart looking. There are also pieces of cricket memorabilia hanging on the walls for those of you who not only love Chinese food but cricket as well. Food wise, the menu offers an extensive range of authentic Sichuan food. There is also a section devoted to dim sum specialties.

We went for lunch, a time of day that saw more of a business crowd. We started our meal by trying a variety of dim sum plates including scallop and prawn siu mai (£6.80) and prawn har gau (£5.80). The scallop siu mai was superb and had been topped with a beautiful piece of sweet scallop. This was a 5/5 dish for the quality of the scallop was superb and the perfect cooking time that meant the scallop was still juicy and delicious. The prawn har gau was also very tasty and plump, with a har gau pastry that was rather authentic – slightly thick, slightly soft and slightly translucent.

Chinese Cricket Club - Scallop & prawn siu mai

Scallop & prawn siu mai

Chinese Cricket Club - Prawn har gau

Prawn har gau

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Kai Chinese Michelin Restaurant

Kai Chinese Michelin Restaurant opened in 1993. It was awarded its first Michelin star in 2009, a star that the restaurant has maintained to this date. It has also won a string of other accolades including Best Chinese Restaurant in the Zagat Survey, the Highest Ranked Chinese Restaurant in The Sunday Times Food List 2012 and a placing as a finalist in Restaurant Magazine’s UK Best Dishes Awards. Celebrity chef Ken Hom also recommends Kai as his ‘go-to’ restaurant in London for dinner.

Kai is beautifully and tastefully decorated. There are the usual traditional touches of the Orient such as a fish tank and the giant Buddha heads, and to round off the glamorous finish modern glass pillars, soft, sexy lighting and expensive red tiling have been used. Head chef is Malaysian born Alex Chow who began cooking at the prodigious age of 14. He fine-tuned his skills at the famous Fullerton Hotel in Singapore before moving to London and to Kai in 2004.

Kai’s menu offers up a complex blend of modern interpretations of Chinese food as well as the more traditional Chinese dishes. It is unique and represents a compilation of special recipes that are original to the restaurant, some of which draw on ingredients not commonly used in Chinese cooking. That said the essence of the food stays true to its Chinese roots. The results are therefore a mixture of the familiar tinged with touches of the West.

The menu makes for a scintillating read and there were many dishes we wanted to try, and try we did. We started with a divine Tan-Jia’s broth (£18), a duck and carrot soup with lobster oil, a medallion of lobster, blanched baby spinach and shitake mushrooms. There was a beautiful flavour coming through from the thick, rich soup, and it made for a heavenly combination with the sweetness of the lobster. This was nothing less than classy, and it reminded me of the kind of soups served at Chinese wedding banquets in the best hotels in Hong Kong. We also opted for some matching wines with our meal, and for the soup the sommelier paired it with a 2011 Chenin Blanc, Saumur L’Insolite, Thierry Germain, Loire Valley, France (£13) that had a nice balance between acidity and sweetness.

Tan-Jia’s broth

Tan-Jia’s broth

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School of Wok – has a wide array of ‘experience days’ to suit every guilty pleasure, ranging from spa pampering temptations to a tonne of adventure experiences. There are airborne exploits such as skydiving and flying lessons, thrills such as track days and off-road stunts, and a wide array of water sports – all of which are available in a variety of locations throughout the UK. And it was through the website that I stumbled upon something closer to my heart, The School of Wok which offers a gourmet day out. More specifically The School of Wok is a Chinese Cookery school based in Covent Garden specialising in Oriental seafood and fish cookery courses. The school is unique as it is one of only a handful of Chinese cookery days in the UK. Founded by Jeremy Pang, The School of Wok has officially been in operation for about a year, but prior to that Pang use to teach cookery courses from home.

The course was priced at £95 and the session began with some basic knife skills with a Chinese cleaver led by our instructor Stefan. We chopped our way through a spectrum of vegetables that formed the mise en place for our meal.

Stefan demonstrating knife skills

Stefan demonstrating knife skills

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A Wong

A Wong is the latest ‘buzz’ Chinese restaurant in London at the moment and is the baby of chef Andrew Wong who has studied in kitchens throughout China. But Chef Wong already came from restaurant stock for his father use to run Kym’s, the Chinese restaurant that previously occupied the same space as A Wong. Basically Andrew has taken on the same address as his own and refurbished it with a more minimalist taste. The result is a restaurant with shiny surfaces and none of the Chinese chintz. Not that there is anything wrong with Chinese chintz, but this style is much more in keeping with Western ‘cool’.

Chef Wong’s solid bio shows in his menu with a diverse range of dishes drawn from throughout China. During the day he serves dim sum from Hong Kong, and in the evenings the a la carte menu includes touches of the Sichuanese, etc. The pricing of the menu is also fabulously cheap, something of a bonus in this day and age.

To the starters and sweet and sour ribs (£1.50 each) were tasty if a little overcooked leaving the outer layer of the rib a bit dry. The sauce was well made and had a lovely sticky, sweet quality to it that was delicious.

Sweet and sour ribs

Sweet and sour ribs

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Naga Restaurant

Naga Restaurant and Bar, located across the road from Kitchen W8 on Abingdon Road, is an Oriental restaurant that draws its influences from both Vietnamese and Chinese cooking. There is also a Pan-Asian twist to the menu, and Head Chef Syarief was recognised as the Best Pan Asian Chef in 2011 by the Asian Curry Awards. Naga Restaurant and Bar also won Best Chinese Restaurant 2012 from the Asian Curry Awards.

The décor is appealing, helped in part by the glass ceiling overhead that leads to a light and airy feel. It’s a comfortable, casual space that one can easily relax in.

There were four of us so had a large variety of dishes to share, starting with the silken tofu with ginger dressing (£5.70) that was lovely and smooth and very delicious. The dressing, with its sweet and savoury tones, worked really well with the tofu even if there wasn’t a strong hint of ginger. The deep fried coating around the tofu added a nice texture to it.

Silken tofu with ginger dressing

Silken tofu with ginger dressing

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China Zen

China Zen is located in the County Hall Building on Southbank and offers lovely views of Waterloo, Westminster and the London Eye. On their website they state that they specialise in Beijing cuisine, and according to some food blogs I’ve read, its Peking duck is allegedly its specialty dish. So when a TopTable 30% off special offer popped up I was rather excited. Peking duck and 30% off was something too good to miss.

So you can imagine my disappointment when I turned up at the restaurant to discover that the Peking duck was not part of the special offer. I might not have read the fine print properly, but it’s annoying when these specials hide a number of conditions. Nevertheless, I had come to China Zen to try the Peking duck, so offer or not, I decided it was still worth ordering.

But as it turned out it mattered little as the restaurant came back to us a few minutes after we had placed our order to inform us that they had run out of Peking duck. Run out of duck? On a Friday night at 7pm? What kind of restaurant runs out of their specialty dish at the beginning of service on one of their busiest nights of the week?

So began our calamitous experience at China Zen. We had also tried ordering about three different types of dumplings to be told that none of them were available. Intent on having some dumplings, we eventually stumbled on one which they said they had, only to discover minutes later that once again they were unable to deliver.

So we gave up on the dumplings and had the seafood and crabmeat soup (£5.80) and the salt and pepper squid (£7.80) for starters instead. Disappointingly, the soup was quite a small portion, and the ‘seafood’ quoted on the menu didn’t really consist of any seafood but some tiny shrimp that was extremely bland. It tasted as if it had been sitting in the freezer for far too long and all its flavour had been bled from it. The rest of the soup was decent with the crab being tasty.

Seafood soup

Seafood soup

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