China Tang restaurant

Mayfair

For all-out, Shanghai-clad opulence and exquisite cooking to match, this is one not to be missed.

Set a few minutes’ walk from Chinatown but a world apart in terms of style, this subterranean art deco den of dim sum, dumplings and duck is housed within The Dorchester Hotel. Away from the high teas and higher ceilings of the main lobby, China Tang launched in 2005 as the creation of Sir David Tang, whose pedigree came from restaurants across China and Singapore. Channelling 1930s Shanghai through its design – bejewelled, lacquered and latticed to within an inch of its life – and with an unadulterated Cantonese-leaning menu, this is somewhere where, if you close your eyes and inhale deeply, you’ll be transported straight to the hutongs of Canton.

In spite of its high-ticket price (starters typically tickle £20), China Tang shows no sign of slowing, and it’s not all businessmen and designer-clad Dorchester residents gracing the tables. On our visit, we’re flanked by a large birthday group, a ubiquitous third-date
couple and a family of hotel guests. It’s bustling without being brash. On descent from the private Park Lane entrance, a members’ club-style bar reveals itself in brass and gold splendour. And it’s not just for cocktails (although do order up a Mu-Dan Flower with kumquat liqueur and heady lychee juice): food can be served here, too. But for a proper feast, we prefer the main dining room, with its decorative silk screens, watercolours, dark wood and a dash of theatre.

Start with dim sum: steamed bao with cha siu pork are our pick, the bun showcasing an airy lightness and the meat full of flavour. The Peking duck is a no-brainer. The only tough decision is whether to go for one, two or three courses: served classically with pancakes and
hoi sin, shredded with beansprouts, then as a soup. We rein ourselves in and opt for the opener. Cooked in a bespoke oven, it’s presented ceremoniously and sliced to perfection, an art that can take waiters years to master. Our heavy silver chopsticks dance their way toward the plate. It’s tender and satisfying, the gamey notes offset by the sweet yet tart sauce. After, a clay pot arrives concealing steaming slow-braised lamb, best devoured with a helping of egg-fried rice. It’s old-school Chinese at its finest. We don’t foresee the decline of this dining dynasty for a long time yet.

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