"A lavish Chinese feast at the world’s most luxurious department store"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
Any lavish department store worth its salt has a selection of suitably ostentatious restaurants, and Harrods, as the world’s most luxurious, follows this rule to a tee. It’s currently home to Michelin-starred Galvin brothers’ Galvin Demoiselle, a branch of famous Parisian confectioners Ladurée, and oyster specialists Bentley’s Sea Grill. The latest addition is Chai Wu, a modern Chinese restaurant on the fifth floor, plonked in the midst of miles of designer sports wear and Harrods’ very own Shoe Heaven.
A marker of a swanky restaurant is the suede or leather-bound menu, here it combines both. A further indicator is the proliferance of lobster, truffle, and in the case of Asian cuisines, wagyu beef, the more liberally used the better. So at Chai Wu, it fills wagyu puffs, which are decorated with gold leaf (naturally). There are steaks, starting from £70 for a 200g sirloin, but instead we opt for the wagyu skewers, which are nice but not particularly mind-blowing.
The prized meat is used again in the wagyu tartare, which puts the velvety meat to better use. It’s an innovative take on the classic that employs sweet plum sauce and Chinese pear rather than the usual Worcestershire sauce and gherkins, so it might shock those who prefer their raw beef with a mustardy kick.
A couple of the dishes we try are excellent, and demonstrate why chef Ian Pengelley is so in demand at the moment (as executive chef of the Pan Chai group, he’s involved with Mango Tree, Nozomi and their eponymous restaurant, also at Harrods.) These are the grilled lamb cutlets, juicy and nicely charred on the outside, and a very satisfying lobster roll, with big chunks of lobster tempura, spinach, crunchy asparagus and good dollops of mayonnaise.
The star of the show is the Beijing duck, here served the traditional way in two sittings. The meat is elaborately carved in front of us and served firstly with pancakes and pillowy-soft Mantou buns, along with more sauces than we have enough meat for, among them sweet plum, garlic and truffle oil, and hot Sichuan sauce. For the second sitting we choose lettuce leaves wrapped around minced duck over the duck fried rice.
Desserts are good too: green tea chocolate fondant marries earthy and creamy flavours, and we’re even treated to a little theatricality with the chocolate sphere, a globe filled with vanilla ice cream over which hot custard is poured, dramatically melting the ball till it’s a rich, gloopy mess.
Chai Wu is aimed at Harrods shoppers – it closes at 8pm and a meal for two averages £200 – it’s an enjoyable romp nonetheless.
Leila reviewed Chai Wu on Sat 28 Feb 2015