Afternoon tea with an Asian Masterchef twist

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Posted by May B on Thursday 1st of June 2017

I’ve had Afternoon Tea in a lot of places – top London establishments and beautiful stately homes a bit further afield. And yesterday I went along to experience afternoon tea with an Asian twist at Chi Kitchen (brainchild of Masterchef Champion Ping Coombes) – conveniently located on the ground floor of Debenhams on Oxford Street but with its own entrance onto the street as it is open late into the evening.

When we walked in my companion declared that he knew it was going to be good by the look and feel of the place. The décor is simple but modern – clean wood, metal lines and funky minimalist lights. There’s just a suggestion of its Asian roots. The staff are all dressed in black and keen to help. Large windows look onto the busy shoppers and office workers outside – so we gloated at our air-conditioned comfort - and low level bench booths provide you with your own space.

There’s an amazing range of cocktails, drinks and beverages. We postponed drinking tea to sample some alcohol-free cocktails. My Virgin Mojito (£5.85) was exemplary – I didn’t miss the rum – and my companion’s Virgin Colada was equally delicious. We tucked into some prawn crackers with chilli and spicy mayonnaise dips while we waited.

Our tea arrived on a traditional three tiered plate. We started at the base and worked upwards.

First were lighter-than-air and fresh tasting vegetable spring rolls. My companion said “the best spring roll I have ever tasted”. Then taro cake (a sort of rice flour pancake) with a delicious plum sauce-like topping. And a curry puff that was the first rather ordinary tasting thing we encountered. Chilli dipping sauce was in the centre.

The next level offered salmon nigari – perfectly cooked rice and firm salmon topped with some caviar. Then plump and sticky prawn dumplings. Another dipping sauce in the centre.

The top tier had cassava cake – warm and dense and “a bit like Oriental angel cake”. Then a lime green Pandan Kaya Bun with a distinctive dark matcha green tea filling. Finally, there was a generous portion of caramel cheesecake which was super-sweet.

I had some Earl Grey tea which was presented in a gorgeously organic shaped pot and my companion sampled the frothy Malaysian pulled tea (served in a glass) which I can only imagine is an acquired taste – a little sweet for my palate.

It was an interesting and welcome change to traditional afternoon tea and I can imagine it will be very popular for those who want either a break from their shopping or some relaxed time out of their busy offices. It will doubtless be as attractive to the younger generation who perhaps resist traditional afternoon teas as it will be to the older generation who will welcome a change. And you would be entirely comfortable dining there alone.

Afternoon tea costs £12.50 per person with unlimited Malaysian tea or coffee or £15 per person with a glass of Prosecco.

What was also impressive was the main menu for the restaurant. It spans Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Malaysian, Thai and Korean dishes – most with meat and vegetarian options. Temptations included sashimi, sushi, dim sum, robata BBQ, Nyonya curry, Sambal, Kung Po, Laksa as well as noodles and rice and various small plates. I particularly liked the sound of duck watermelon salad (£8.25), prawn tempura (£8.95) and spider soft shell crab (£10.50).


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