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I may be fast approaching my fourth decade but I still like the rush of living on the Edge, mixing it up, taking the less trodden pathÖ.well sort of! In actual fact this translates into often going out for dinner without a reservation or even a clear idea where to go. To do so on a Saturday night some might consider the height of foolishness. Thus it was on a night where we were due at a 40th birthday party somewhere in Waterloo we dropped off baby G with grandma and headed out for a bite to eat first. My lovely wife is not always of the same mind as me about this spin the bottle approach to restaurants. She likes to know where she is going if only to ensure footwear and coat are suitable and how we are getting there. Anyway it was 7:30 and we were adrift in the West End without a destination. I then remembered there was a Chinese restaurant on North Audley St I often walked past. We pitched up asked for a table of two without much hope and lo and behold we were ushered into a very light and airy dining room and settled down to a very good meal.
The Princess Garden of Mayfair screams quality and expense at you from its marble entrance, visually striking bar and upscale interior. However on looking through the menu we saw it was pricey but not barking mad. For a sizeable central London restaurant it opted for the sensible approach of providing food for a variety of budgets. We were previously big fans of the Royal China Baker St but the last couple of visits had been marred by indifferent food and service, we were thus in the market for a new Chinese restaurant. To test the Princess Garden out we decided to order a bit off piste and go for dishes we hadn't had before but sounded nice... well apart from the crispy chilli beef, you have to order that. It came out and was really very nice particularly some spiced lamb served in lettuce leaves. The chilli beef was extremely tasty. It all had a very clean taste not too spicy but neither was it bland, well balanced and well cooked food. We had a very nice evening surrounded by a clientele of tourist and some extremely well-heeled Mayfair locals. The bill wasn't cheap but at £80 a head but for a big meal with wine and drinks to start I thought it was fair especially for Mayfair. It was certainly more fun than the cramped noisy bar/nightclub we subsequently ended up in for the 40th.
It was so good we popped back on Saturday lunchtime for Dim Sum which our waiter had assured us was very family friendly. We took baby G who though off his food due to a sniffle was very happy to sit in the bright dining room colouring in his fireman Sam comic. We had a very nice selection of Dim Sum. The Cheung Fun in particular was lovely. Unlike the Royal China service was really on the ball and very friendly. I was also pleased we were shown to a nice spacious table which you don't always get when you turn up with a toddler in tow. We went in early but it was already half full, by the time we left it was packed with people waiting for a table. A good selection of Dim Sum, glass of wine and noddles came to £50 which was very fair. We weren't rushed at all, we felt valued. I felt sorry for the harassed shoppers I saw later who had crammed themselves into the chain places near there where for the same price they could have dined well and in comfort as we did in the Princess Garden of Mayfair.
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Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I seriously cannot fault the dimsum at Princess Garden of Mayfair. It has slowly become one of my favourite restaurants just for the quality of food, the location, the value and the decor. Service is definitely a lot more friendly than any restaurant in Chinatown but this restaurant is way out of its league to be compared in any restaurant in Chinatown. As far as value goes it is definitely affordable, still below £3.00 for most steamed simple dishes which is still cheap for any small tapa dish compared to the Spanish cuisine or any other cuisine.
I would recommend everyone to book ahead if you are deciding to venture in on the weekends from 12-2pm as on the last occasion we were there we saw people being turned away as they were completely booked. Luckily we booked a table for 1pm but still had to wait half an hour before a table was ready. A spacious well lighted and well decorated seating area is available in the waiting area with a bar for those who want to order drinks before settling in. With ornaments, statues and other things to browse at, a drink in hand, comfy leather sofas it did make waiting time a lot more easier go by. Although I wished the front of house staff could be more friendly and smile when greeting and turning people away.
Luckily service changed once we settled in. Everyone was very attentive, smiley and super efficient and quick. The restaurant itself takes on a modern decor with its white walls and tableclothes, large glass windows to allow natural sunlight in making it look very clean and nice to settle down into. Tea was immediately offered as well as the menu and Iím talking about good quality tea leaves here that actually has the rich taste of tea. Cutlery in its complete form without no chips and the waiting staff in uniform so easily recognised.
The dimsum started to arrive in no less than 10 minutes after ordering but I can guarantee you that quality is not affected here as they properly do it in batches and as so many people are ordering it still remains fresh and perfectly steamed or fried. Even when questioning food items the staff were more than willing to get a reply for us even if they did not know the answer themselves. Waiters kindly offered to take a photo of us all when I took my camera out and made conversation with us.
First to arrive were the siu mai, har gau and scallop dumpling and they came looking greaseless and plump. The siu mai even went the extra mile with crabmeat on top for that extra creamy seafood taste. All three of them were faultless. Generous filling of fresh prawns and the scallop perfectly steamed to still be bouncy and springy,. They were all full of flavour and not overloaded with colouring or msg as they werenít brightly coloured and I didnít find myself quenching for water. The rice wrapper around the har gau and scallop dumpling were just right in thickness, perfectly sticky without being gooey and held the prawn filling and scallop finely with ripping apart. They were more than good.
Next came the fried taro croquettes which were recommended by other bloggers for being extremely crispy and a favourite of theirs. I couldnít agree more, they were not just crispy but also greaseless and the taro filling itself was extremely tasty still with its flavour and although soften well they still came in slight chunks for that extra texture. Nice.
However they were not my favourite dim sum of mine as mine had to be the mini baked char siu bao. I donít believe you can find them anywhere else in London except in Princess Garden of Mayfair. They're fab! That perfect coating of sweetened glaze, light & airy so when you bite, it collapses into a sweet & savoury quality lean char siu without that artificially sweetened taste or colouring but real generous stuffing of pork. The bun has that extra chew to it to blend in with the perfect ratio of meat to it creating something quite satisfying to eat & maybe another one.
Then also did the same kind of bun with a custard filling too and just as satisfying but on a different level. The filling was really yokey, smooth and not the custard you may be used to as it had a different sweetness to it and Iím guessing it was coconut cream or milk. The bun itself was called pineapple custard bun known for the top crunchy crust made from sugar, butter, egg and flour to add that extra texture and sweetness to the bun resembling the shape of a pineapple hence how it got its name. Crunchy, flaky, soft sweet bun, smooth, sweet filling...I couldnít have asked for it differently.
Patience, quality and attentive to detail shines in this restaurant and you can tell from itís Turnip cake. Unlike most chinese restaurant who deep fry the cake to speed things up these were pan fried to bring out the flavours making it that extra fragrant and smokey at the bottom. It also meant they were greaseless, soft and fluffy.
Even my favourite dim sum of all times, the beancurd roll were the best I had. Usually Iím biting into a sponge of grease but once again these felt clean and into a filling of fresh crunchy vegetables of carrots, bamboo shoots and more and all flavoured well in its stock. The beancurd had all the usual texture of being quite smooth, slightly elastic but steamed perfectly so it was still very moist and not tough at all.
Mumís favourite dimsum had always been the stewed black bean chicken feet and Princess Garden gave it that extra depth of flavour it needed with the taste of five spice. It was stewed to the right timing so it was just falling off its bones without being too mushy. Perfectly spiced too in a well seasoned and flavoured sauce made it very moreish.
Near towards the end came the two most talked about dishes in Princess Gardens which were the cuttlefish cheung fun and crabmeat e-fu noodles. Dad was even surprised they went through all that effort to fry the cuttlefish and then wrap it up in rice paper roll in such a busy restaurant and do it so well. The cuttlefish had all the wok energy needed, flavoursome, bouncy and fresh wrapped around a thin yet perfectly steamed smooth rice pastry wrapper. I doubt you will find this dish anywhere else in London.
If I had to order any main dish in Princess Gardens it has to be the crabmeat E-fu noodles a. I can eat this everyday if given to me. In any other restaurant I've had e-fu noodles they tend to be mushy but these were fresh, incredibly bouncy, covered in a light but very flavoursome seafood broth from real crab meat that was so tender they would just fall apart in your mouth. The whole thing just slip into your mouth effortlessly with the perfect companions of mushrooms that added that extra flavour & depth. So good!
Finally came our dessert dish which were the thousand layer cake. I had to savour every layer as there were not a thousand but like 5. These were so light and fluffy held together by some thin layer of sticky sweet goodness that slowly diminishes into my mouth, melting away. You can also be creative with the way you want to eat these. Once again I have not seen these anywhere in any other dim sum restaurant.
Iím sorry I wrote an essay but Princess Garden of Mayfair is too good for me to miss out any of their highlights. To round things up I will definitely recommend their baked buns in both varieties, cuttlefish cheung fun and crabmeat e-fu noodles just because I will doubt youíll find them anywhere else in London. Of course you canít go wrong with ordering any of their dimsum as they are all just scrumptious.
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Food 10 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8
Saturday, April 07, 2012
the dim sum is great, the waiters hover too much
the toilets are still a disgrace , not sure why they havent sorted this out after the tv show
i dont get why such a great restaurant allows their facilities to be so bad. do they expect none of their quests to go to the toilet ?
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Food 9 | Service 3 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 3
Tuesday, September 20, 2011