The whole Michelin Star thing is all rather peculiar to me. A guide that was created by the eponymous tyre manufacture for the travelling man has somehow become the quintessential guide for ostensibly great food. However, despite their claims to the contrary, I believe that the Michelin Guide is a little ignorant of non-European food. Take Asian food, for example, which is grossly under-represented by The Guide. It’s almost as if the Guide’s ‘expert’ judges don’t recognise the ability to perfectly blend and balance a dozen spices as a legitimate skill. Following 15 years of hard work, legendary Chinese restaurant Kai Mayfair was recently awarded its first Michelin Star and it’s probably safe to say that it was a long time coming.
At first sight, the menu is both complicated and intimidating and one wrong move could end up costing you dearly; try £108 for ‘Buddha Jumps Over the Wall’ soup for a game of foodie Russian roulette! However, the majority of the menu is made up of more accessibly priced dishes, with starters at around £15 and mains for around £25.
Our delicious starters included A Nest of Imperial Jewels (chopped prawns with mustard greens served on butterhead lettuce) and simply phenomenal Wasabi Prawns – six big, plump King Prawns in the lightest of wasabi coatings. Our obligatory mid-course of Aromatic Crispy Duck was perfectly cooked and served with feather-light pancakes. Unbelievably, mains were even better. ‘The Great Tiger of the Spice Route’ was a glorious dish of Tiger Prawns scented with crisp curry leaves, served with a lemon & chilli dressing; Lamb with Szechuan Peppercorns was hearty, punchy and far better than a dish of minced lamb has any right to be. Our meal was perfectly accompanied by delicately flavoured Lobster Essence Noodles. As you can imagine, Ms Pancake and I were well and truly stuffed, but we managed to squeeze in an unexpectedly light and palette cleansing dessert of Pumpkin Crème with Coconut ice cream. I really must also add that portion sizes were most generous, and really put restaurants of similar stature to shame.
The restaurant itself featured a classic blend of dark woods and leather with some of the most comfortable chairs my big rump has had the pleasure of placing itself on. The restaurant was also pleasantly inviting, very relaxed and had some of the most personable staff around; again a stark contrast to similar upmarket restaurants. A real ‘must visit’ restaurant.
Cuisine type – Chinese
Dinner for 2 (ex. drinks) – £110
Wine – £7
65 South Audley Street
Tel: 020 74938988