All reader reviews by Eatey Avenger

Kai Mayfair

I am really very surprised that this restaurant has the good reviews that it does, let alone a Michelin star. If this is what Michelin views as a one star restaurant (next to Maze, St John, Tom Aikens) then their scoring system is seriously off. And by that I mean deranged.

My friend and I went there to have the set lunch which, at £19, appeared to be great value. (I have taken the cost of this into account in this review I might add.)

Upon entering we were shown a table which Fay Maschler in her Evening Standard review described as "what must be the worst table for two on the ground floor at the top of a precipitous flight of stairs." I wish I had read her review before going. This was indeed the case and we were both brushed by waiters on their way through the restaurant at many times during the meal.

My friend thought the interior was shabby. I looked to see what he meant and there was water damage in the ceiling above our table and and open aircon duct with exposed wiring on show. It seemed a little dark but this is just a mater of taste I suppose.

The service was efficient enough, although lacking in much charm. We were served by 3 or 4 different people and I can only remember one speaking.

I can overlook a lot though on the basis of the food and here was what really annoyed me: on the menu, the starter is described as "a little something from the chef." I would venture that this is true, in that it was indeed "little", definitely "something" and had probably passed the "chef" on its way from the chiller. What we received was a bowl of lettuce, with a few cherry tomatoes, grapes and peanuts, drizzled with vinaigrette. How this is Chinese is beyond me, but I have also had better salads in Welcome Break and McDonald's.

This was followed by a very good, small bowl of Szechuan miso broth. I really liked this despite my growing feeling of being seriously taken for a ride. It was well seasoned, flavoursome and had just the right level of heat behind it to make you reach for the wine and then wonder why you did.

The main was good. My friend had wok grilled pork fillet, oriental barbecue sauce, choi sum & soya sauce, which he said was most wonderfully tender.

I had the ostrich fillet (reasonable tender and quite impressive), 3 chilli styles, spinach in garlic - which was pretty good, although there was too much garlic. (I love garlic so this was a shock and a half.) Rice was perfect but I would have blown a gasket otherwise in a place like this.

Dessert was a bowl about the size of a small ramekin of lemon sorbet perched atop some chopped apple and grapes. It was very nice, but perhaps a bit too simple, not very Chinese, and certainly far, far too small.

Wine by the glass is reasonable but, if you can, they have a good general selection running to stratospheric levels of cash. It's nothing special but it's not bad either. Expect stereotypical Mayfair prices.

I objected to several of my fellow diners (lunchers) talking on the phone incessantly, treating tables and chairs as they would their own living room by moving them about, and two, erm... let's say "large" people, in pink and purple tracksuits who must have got up from their table at least four times each for no discernible reason and brushed past. Again. The staff did not manage any of these issues, but then perhaps these people weren't eating from the "poor list," which was how my friend and I began to imagine the way the staff see the set menu.

I think this is a place that is all about status, and I get that feeling from some of the other reviewers here too. There is no value here and there is no charm. It lacks finesse, personality and innovation. I can think of 10 better Chinese restaurants to eat out at in London, and they would all cost significantly less than here. I have no idea how or why this place has a star and any residual faith in our Michelin friends has been well and truly destroyed.

We both left with the feeling we had been ripped off, and several days later we had only become more angry.

Avoid this place and go anywhere else. Really - anywhere. I think there's a Wagamama on Wigmore Street but you'll probably find a Subway closer. They'll at least have a better salad (sorry, "a little something from the chef.")

Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Overall rating 4 stars
Food 6 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 2 | Value for money 1


I first visited in mid December, and have been here 4 times since. As somebody from Clapham, I am used to paying a premium for decent fish. Not here - extraordinarily good value for money, and some of the freshest, well-sourced and simple (in a good way) fish to be had in London. The menu changes according to what was good and available in the fish markets, but there are several staples always on and always excellent (cod, haddock, sole, bream, etc)... I do miss the cockle starter from my first visit though.

There were a couple of mix-ups with side orders, but nothing serious and rectified quickly. The atmosphere and somewhat cozy tables can at first seem to be a very 'local' thing, but we have generally ended up talking to other diners and/or the owner by the end of the night. As you can't book, perhaps expect a wait at weekends in the evening, but it's quicker than you think and well worth it.

I almost left a bad review as I'd have liked to keep this place a secret. My conscience got the better of me though. Go.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Overall rating 10 stars
Food 10 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 10

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