Super-cool designer basement down the end of an unpromising alleyway just north of Oxford Street. The walk down the dark spiral staircase does not prepare you for the carefully lit, artfully architected dining room (with obligatory trendy bar). The lighting is very clever, appearing very dark and private overall but having well directed spot lighting onto each table so you can read the menu. Overall the effect is very romantic. The menu is broad and appealing, with dim sum at lunch excellent, as good as any in London.
This must be one of the most commercially successful restaurants in London. My last visit was on a Monday night, on which they had 420 covers booked. Despite the sheer scale of the operation, the cooking is very consistent. Dim sum is excellent here, the steamed dumplings delicate and light (15/20), while gai lan with garlic was superb, perfectly cooked and with carefully selected stalks (16/20). A "pi pa" duck was rather less good, pleasant and correctly cooked but not in the league of the seafood dishes.
Below are notes from a meal in September 2008.
Prawn and chive and vegetarian dumplings were served in a bamboo basket. The texture of the dumplings was superb, the contents cooked just fine (15/20). Soft shell crab was remarkably good, the batter without a hint of greasiness, the crab inside delicate. This is as good a soft shell crab as I have had (16/20). Duck spring rolls are also excellent, with very light batter and tender duck (15/20). A main course of Dover sole is costly at £34 but had very nicely cooked fish, served in pieces in a star shape, on a bed of spinach and soy. The spinach was dazzling, right up there with the top French restaurants (spinach was 18/20). Spicy prawns were impeccably cooked, served with a spicy broth that had well controlled chilli flavour that did not overwhelm the prawns. Gai lan with garlic was cooked beautifully (easily 16/20). Service was slick and the only issue is with price, especially with drinks. A bottle of beer (500 ml Sapporo Premium) was £9.50 a bottle (retail £1.88), making this the most costly beer I have ever drunk. More than five times shop price is simply unreasonable.Book