Restaurant Review: China Tang at the Dorchester
Confucius say: When opening Chinese restaurant in Manhattan, make it Kosher. And when opening one in Mayfair, make it halal.
There are only two glamorous Chinese restaurants in London – Hakassan and China Tang at The Dorchester. The creator of the former is a mild mannered and thoughtful fellow, whom I know. From what I’ve heard of David Tang, he’s rather the opposite and his outrageously over the top glitzy decor is I believe a reflection of his own flamboyant personality. This is a good thing. Too many restaurants play it safe with white linen tables and dark woods.
To get into the bar and restaurant, you have to do the Walk of Walks – all the way through the Dorchester foyer, then the lobby where the world and their nannies are having afternoon tea day and night (why?) and the Champagne bar at the end. Here’s the look you need to acquire to get through: the people sat will stare at you thinking: “Who’s that dude and what’s he doing here?” and your look back should exude: “Look at these fools being suckered into thinking they’re having a good time.”
At night the bar at China Tang roars with the Mayfair set and as such is more of a club. The non-alcoholic cocktails are amongst the best you’ll find in London and about one in ten of the scrummy nibbles contains a near lethal chilli kick.
The dining room is exquisitely grand, gold and ornate. The chopsticks are silver. Need I say more?
The menu is not as adventurous as Kai, the third of the trio of Chinese establishments in London with a Michelin star (go try their steamed seabass). Instead, have excellent dim sum. Beware if you order Peking Duck – here it’s a dish that keeps giving. First its breast meat is delicately sliced into slivers daintily presented as opposed to the chain-saw massacre through which more conventionally Triad-fuelled waiters take out their vengeance against their bosses and their customers on the poor bird.
The rest will then be cooked over one or two more courses. Only order this if you have a large group otherwise you won’t want to see another duck for a very long while. Unlike the automated precise service at Hakkasan, at China Tang servers and managers actually speak to you and tell you what they recommend rather than the usual “not enough!” or “too much!” snipes.
Notable seafood dishes include steamed prawns with garlic and lobster wrapped in lettuce. Leave room for side dishes rather than puddings. China Tang shows there is life beyond pak choi. Ask for crunchy, snow pea shoots or Morning Glory.
On your way out, the look you give the people sitting in the lobby is this: If only you knew what you could have been having downstairs.
Iqbal Wahhab OBE
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