Does London really need another high-end Chinese restaurant? Ever since the advent of Alan Yau with his Hakkasan and Yauatcha establishments, it seems as if the capital has been replete with expensive, glossy places serving a mixture of the finest dim sum, cocktails to die for and innovative, interesting cooking…ah, that is why London needs another high end Chinese restaurant. And House of Ming, located a hop and skip away from Buckingham Palace, is a suitably regal addition to the ranks of the city’s very best.
Of course, calling a restaurant ‘Chinese’ is essentially nonsensical; there are many different varieties of cuisine within that country, and so House of Ming’s emphasis on Cantonese and Sichuan cooking is probably what you might expect from somewhere that has a careful eye on as wide a selection as diners. It’s located within the opulent settings of St James’s Court, an upmarket hotel that has always catered to a distinguished international market, but this is no business-centric establishment, but instead offers a carefully curated march through a variety of dishes that never ceases to delight.
I meet my friend Gustav, who has already settled himself in the restaurant, armed with a glass of Sauvignon, and we decide that the best way of tackling the eclectic fare on offer is to take the ‘Explore HOM’ option, a kind of cross between a set menu and a tasting repast: £65 for five course, beginning with dim sum and ending with a trio of desserts, all of which are excellent (never a given in even the finest of Chinese restaurants).
In between are all manner of delights and wonders, all of which we fall upon with delight. The dim sum of scallop, prawn and crab – together with a bonus pork char siu bun we order – are flawless, and then two further appetiser courses, of crispy chicken, lamb wontons and a hot and sour soup that comes garlanded with chicken, prawn and – let me check my notes – ‘wood fungus tofu’ – are all exceptional. This is, I declare to Gustav over a glass of Sancerre, the best meal of its kind I’ve had in ages; we raise a toast to the talented chef, Dickson Leung.
If standards don’t quite stay at the same level for the main courses, and stay merely ‘very good’ rather than ‘sublime’, then that’s partly because we’ve already eaten more than enough food to keep us going for several lunchtimes, and partly because the selection on offer – roast duck, quail, beef fried noodles and stir fried greens – is very accomplished and superbly cooked, but we wondered if something more esoteric was lurking out of sight, such as the black cod or the turbot – Cantonese style. But nonetheless, it’s a very, very well executed menu, and when we finish with the trio of desserts that include a fine, palate-cleansing sorbet, a chocolate marquise and a mango sago, we are very happy indeed.
As we leave House of Ming, sated and replete, Gustav raises his hat to the establishment, quite literally. This is top-notch cooking, done the right way. We shall be back, and strongly recommend that you make tracks to go there, too.
House of Ming at St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel, 54 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AF. For more information, including details of set menus and the ‘love seat’, and for bookings, please visit www.houseofming.co.uk.