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Imperial Treasure London

9 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4BE, United Kingdom

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Imperial Treasure opened in December 2018, the first London outpost of a restaurant group from Singapore. The branch of Imperial Treasure in Shanghai was given two Michelin stars by the entertainingly generous Michelin Shanghai guide in 2018. Its branches in Singapore and Hong Kong also have a Michelin star, and there are further branches in Guangzhou and South Korea. Another branch is planned to open in Paris in the spring of 2019, with the original branch in Singapore being "Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck" in the Paragon mall.

The London outpost is in what was once a Lloyds bank and is exceedingly smart, designed by the same architect firm (the French Studio Liaigre) that did the original Hakkasan. The very high ceilings create a dramatic space, and the room has been split into distinct sections so that its considerable size, at 110 covers, does not become overwhelming. The menu is quite classical Cantonese and is fairly extensive, with plenty of luxury ingredients on offer. Prices are distinctly ambitious, with tasting menus at £88 and £128. The a la carte options were similarly priced, with for example exotica such as sea cucumber at £38 but also more mundane dishes like poached cabbage in chicken broth at £18 and Singapore noodles with lobster £48. This is a restaurant that is aiming high.  The executive head chef is Wee Boon Goh, who previously worked for Hakkasan as chef de cuisine at Hanway Place

The wine list was skewed heavily towards the luxury end of the market, with just over two hundred bottles ranging in price from £38 to £2,779, but with a very high median price of £160, and just eight wines under £50, yet also eight bottles over £1,000. Sample references were Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2016 at £55 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £19, Shaw and Smith Adelaide Hills M3 Chardonnay 2016 at £86 compared to its retail price of £29, and Nicolas Joly Les Vieux Clos Vignobles de la Coulee de Serrant Savennieres 2016 at £118 for a wine that will set you back £39 in the high street. For those with the means there was Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou 1982 at £998 compared to its retail price of £403, and Cheval Blanc 1990 at £2,778 for a wine whose current market value is £1,140. Despite the preponderance of expensive wines, the markup levels were not excessive by London standards, with a median markup to retail price of around 2.9 times their shop price. For those who didn’t fancy splashing out on wine, beer was Sapporo at £6 a bottle, and jasmine tea was £4.50 per person, which seemed to include indefinite top-ups.

Blue swimmer crab and sweet corn soup was a step up in quality from the Chinatown staple. Although one piece of shell slipped through, the crab flavour was excellent (14/20). Even better was a humble hot and sour soup, which had a deep, rich flavour and a nice balance of vinegar and chilli kick. This was really impressive, all the more so when you consider that there are no luxury ingredients involved here (easily 15/20).

Prawns with dried chilli and cashew nuts had tender and carefully cooked stir-fried prawns and nice spiciness from the dried chillies (14/20). Tenderloin cut of beef, or fillet as it would normally be described here, was sourced from the USA, sautéed in chunks and served with garlic crisps. The beef was impressive, very tender and with plenty of flavour, nicely complemented by the little garlic crisps (15/20). Baby tenderstem broccoli (from South Africa) was stir-fried with garlic and was precisely cooked, the vegetables small and tender (15/20). Singapore noodles with lobster had quite a price tag but turned out to be impressive. The noodles had lovely, delicate texture, far superior to the quality of this dish in most Chinese restaurants. The lobster was tender and lightly cooked, and overall this was one of the better noodle dishes I can recall (easily 16/20). At the dessert stage we were brought a custard bun in a charcoal egg to try, though this was not really my kind of thing and by then I was distinctly full.

Service was extremely attentive and courteous, and the meal began and ended with a hot towel, which I thought was a nice touch. The bill, with beer and tea to drink, came to £117 each. We could have ordered one dish less as the portions were generous, but if you had wine then a typical cost per head is still going to end up at around £95 or more. Despite the size of the bill, I was impressed with Imperial Treasure. It was interesting that it seems to be aiming higher than its sister in Shanghai, which has much more basic decor and lower prices. It is rare for upmarket Chinese restaurants to open in London, at least since the late lamented HKK and the extravagantly appointed Park Chinois. Certainly the food here is much better than Park Chinois, and is clearly aiming at the same upmarket clientele. It will be interesting to see how it fares in what promise to be choppy economic times this year.

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