Park Chinois

17 Berkeley Street, London, W1J 8EA, United Kingdom

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This is Alan Yau’s most high-end restaurant since Hakkasan. He has made a fortune by selling Wagamama, Busaba Eathai and the like, as well as having launched less successful formats like Naamyaa and Cha Cha Moon. Park Chinois is intended to evoke the glamour of 1930s Shanghai, a vast restaurant that can seat 300 diners over its two floors. The head chef is Lee Liang, who had previously run the kitchen at Min Jiang and had worked for nine years at Hakkasan.

The ground floor dining room has red curtains, chandeliers, red lamps and generally is reminiscent of a swish art deco era club. Jazz was played in the background, and at intervals a live band played in place of the recorded music. Décor is a personal thing, but I thought the room looked gorgeous; doubtless a fortune was spent in fitting it out, but you can certainly see where the money went. You enter the room via a red velvet curtain that is parted for you, a suitably theatrical way to be introduced to the chintzy setting.

The menu is unusual, starting with a Peking Duck dish, which it is suggested that you pair with caviar. As I was dining with someone that doesn’t eat meat we skipped this stage, but the duck cost £75, and caviar priced from £85 to £280 will add considerably to this, so you know that this is not likely to be a cheap night out. The cynic in me wonders whether if Alan Yau had discovered that something cheap like, say, chickpeas, rather than caviar were a clever accompaniment to Peking Duck, whether this would really have been featured.

The menu then follows three further sections, plus dessert. Portions seemed large given this format – even after skipping the duck course we didn’t finish all our food, and had no room for dessert. The wine list is almost all French, all 550 different labels of it. Le Casot des Mailloles La Poudre d’Escampette 2013 was £53 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £27, Josmeyer Le Dragon 2012 was £73 compared to a shop price of £25, and Domaine Henri Bourgeois Cuvee d’Antan 2012 was £100 for a bottle that retails at £36. There was no shortage of prestige wines, such as Leflaive Les Pucelles 2008 at £350 for a wine that will set you back £161 in a shop, and Gaja Sperss 1995 at £366 for a label whose current market price is £135.

To start with, scampi shumai (£11) had good langoustines topped with flying fish roe, the dumpling just a touch firmer than ideal (14/20). Soft shell crab (£14) was excellent, avoiding the greasiness that often afflicts this dish, served here with coconut, fried curry leaves and dried red chilli peppers (15/20). Potted rice with chestnut, pumpkin and soya (£14) was very pleasant, the rice carefully cooked and the seasonal toppings of good quality (14/20).

I am not quite sure what a modern fusion take on the classic carbonara, this one with udon, noodles, sea urchin and pancetta (£32), was doing on the menu, but it was suggested as a speciality of the house so I tried it. I wish I hadn’t, as the udon noodles were distinctly soggy at the outset, and the slow-cooked egg yolk mixed into the dish at the table by our waiter added further to this problem. The pieces of pancetta were good but the sea urchin flavour was missing in action and the texture was a real problem (11/20). This dish definitely needs further work, and I was unable to finish it (to be fair, they removed it from the bill without my asking). Even if it had been fine, £32 for this does seem excessive.   

Whole Dover sole (£42) was carefully fried and of good quality, served entirely on its own (14/20). As a side dish, gai lan with garlic sauce was very tender (15/20), as well it might be at £12. The other side dish available (cavalo nero with ginger) was also £12; I can recall not long ago when the £5 barrier for side dishes was breached in Mayfair – those were the days. 

Guinea fowl (£32) with dried scallop (from Hokkaido) and noodles was enjoyable, the noodles having good texture, the guinea fowl plenty of flavour (14/20). We skipped dessert, as by then we had eaten more than enough.

The bill came to £126, with no duck course, no dessert and some glasses of wine to drink.  If you had the duck and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per head would be around £160, which is an awful lot of money. This did not seem to trouble our fellow diners one iota, some of whom were doing a passable imitation of the denizens of The Capitol in the “Hunger Games”. Around us tables were being reset and turned just days after opening. Service was excellent, with more smartly dressed waiters than you could shake a stick at, and the staff that we encountered, including an ex HKK manager, were friendly and capable. A lengthy gap between the second and third courses was the only hint that this might be early days. Overall Park Chinois certainly provides a memorable experience, with its genuinely beautiful dining room and silky service, though for me the food, though good, does not match the lovely surroundings, nor its steep price tag. 


Further reviews: 30th Dec 2015

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