I’ll admit that I knew very little of Min Jiang before my recent visit; so little in fact that I was surprised to find it on the 10th floor of the Royal Garden Hotel. But what a pleasant surprise – the views from the restaurant are spectacular vistas of a green and luscious London (Kensington Gardens to be precise).
It makes a nice change to the recent towering openings to have a view that isn’t peering in to other skyscrapers.
So it’s after quite some time that our attention turns to the room itself, which is lovely, if a little staid and too much of what you might expect from high-end Chinese dining in a hotel.
We sit back in the very comfortable bar though, and start our evening by enjoying a cocktail from a menu of Chinese-inspired drinks with infusions of mandarin, ginger and pepper.
The restaurant itself transforms as the sun sets and takes on a dark and seductive tone. It’s beautifully presented, but somehow the acoustics haven’t quite worked and we find ourselves disproportionately deafened by a neighbouring table, and having to shout throughout dinner.
The food, though, is exquisite. It’s a menu with a huge number of recognisable dishes on it, but if like me your knowledge of Chinese food is limited to some pretty forgettable experiences, this is about to change your expectations.
We begin with a dim sum selection so fresh and light we had to stop ourselves from instantly re-ordering. A salt and pepper squid plate soon followed and the chilli and garlic was sweet, hot and punchy to accompany the tender squid.
Then, onto a gloriously sweet, rich and fatty Peking duck. Perhaps the restaurant’s signature dish, it’s easy to see why. The theatre of it a special addition to the dining experience – our eyes were glued on our carving waiter as he intricately and expertly prepared our duck, starting by presenting a plate of neck skin served with sugar.
This was so sweet it was almost unrecognisable, but a dramatic start to a dish which really impressed my companion. Next the duck is sliced at your table and presented on a traditional and modern pancake platter to build your own to taste. The remaining meat is whisked back into the kitchen to form the basis of subsequent courses.
It’s in these main dishes where Min Jiang really sets itself apart from those memories of heavy, gloopy sauces and inferior ingredients you may have had in the past. The food is so light, and of such great quality it’s very easy to enjoy the 4 courses and not need to be rolled home to take a nap.
Ingredients sing rather than being lost in sauces and there’s a lightness which really should be commended.
Min Jiang is one of London’s most respected Chinese restaurants, and it’s clear to see why. Unbeatable views of London, fabulous staff, a creative menu, and dishes which really do stand out.
If you enjoy high-end Chinese restaurants, read our review of Hutong at The Shard.