(Visited: April 2012)
(Note: a more recent visit is described here)
Venturing in money-oozing Mayfair, here are some quick comments from memory about a recent lunch at one of the local institutions, the upscale Chinese Kai.
This an expensive restaurant for dinner, and we are not sure whether the experience justifies the prices, but the lunch option is very approachable and very good value at £27 for three courses (£39 with matching wines).
For some reason (perhaps some negative review read and forgotten but lingering in the subconscious) we didn’t have high expectations, but we were positively surprised by the quality of the produce and of the cuisine.
Slow cooked pork belly in particular was impressive for the elegant presentation, apt cooking and deep flavour lightened and lifted up by the condiment (ginger, cinnamon, soy…) by someone who clearly knows how to treat pork, oh yes he/she does, look at that sticky glistening dark colour:
Perhaps even more impressive was a ‘spice route’ lobster (£12 supplement, deserved), the spices a a complex affair that yet respected, and indeed formed an elegant flavour robe for, the good produce:
Whoever the chef is, he/she can strike several chords, not only powerful grand flavours: a starter of Loh Bak Goh Turnip cake was ever so airily crispy and fresh and cleanly presented, a delight to eat.
So was the other starter, a crispy duck that is definitely not your local Chinese version (well, unless you live in Mayfair, that is):
Desserts were quite good too, with an intriguing 6 textures of chocolate and peanuts
and a not earth-shattering, but pleasant and waistline-friendly almond curd with fresh fruit:
Service varied from charming to uninterested to poor. Houston, you’ve got a serious problem in this department. The wine waitress (an Italian) was particularly incompetent. She didn’t know, or didn’t want to tell us, the optional matching wines. She only assured us that she would tell us at some point before serving. This was already quite incredible and bad enough, but after a few minutes she was trying to fill Man’s glass, without showing the wine bottle, and with no word of explanation. We’ll spare you the tense exchange that ensued… the conclusion is that no blood was spilled but we had tea, which was excellent.
And aside from the matching wines, the prices of wine on the list really go too far in their aiming at the superwealthy Mayfairites: tea looks like a better option.
Well, no single dud dish today, and a couple of impressive ones. And at £27 in Mayfair! We were satisfied with the food at Kai. Compared with Yauatcha, for example, this is a more stayed, less hip but also more elegant experience. Mayfair vs Soho, you understand. So satisfied were we in fact that we left with the intention of trying, at some point, the more wallet-busting, but also even more ambitious, dinner menu.