An Honest Review of Park Chinois – The New Chinese Restaurant in Mayfair
Park Chinois Review:
Park Chinois is a Chinese restaurant in Mayfair, London. I’ve been there 3 times, twice for dinner and once for lunch. Each experience was different but if you simply don’t want to read on, let me just say this much. Park Chinois has very quickly established itself in the same league as restaurants like Hakkasan, China Tang and my favourite, Hunan (in Pimlico).
Annoyingly there are a couple of steps to walk into the foyer of the restaurant from the street, but then it starts, the experience begins. Park Chinois has an upstairs and a downstairs. Both serve the exact same menu, however the ambience is very different in each of the sections. Before I even booked the first time, a food writer friend of mine who had been to review the restaurant said:
“….old money sits upstairs and new money sits downstairs”.
Of course he didn’t mean that literally but when I got there I appreciated the metaphor. I had somehow managed to leverage the @12×75 (twitter & instagram accounts) to plead my way into being sat upstairs. The social savvy person managing their twitter account must have taken pity (on Mrs 12×75) and gave me a wonderful table overlooking the singer and his band. Singer? Where did that come from? Well, let me get to that.
The History of Park Chinois
This is an Alan Yau (OBE) project. If you’ve never heard of this legendary restaurateur then I can guarantee that you would have heard of his restaurants. He is the man behind Hakkasan, Yauatcha & Wagamamas. Let’s just say he has a track record that shouts he knows what he’s doing. It’s an opulent restaurant and it’s have rumoured to cost well over £20 million to get it looking like it does right now. Gulp!
Champagne at Park Chinois
I needed a drink before dinner. Just a moment to take in my surroundings. The décor is lush. Lots of red walls, tassels, gold, mirrors and of course let’s not forget the pillars. It didn’t have that Hakkasan modern look to it, it was modern and yet classic. Somehow they had made it work but in doing so, have small tables (in size). Especially the table of 2’s.
But there was a buzz.
People were smiling, the food looked and smelt divine and more than that, they were being tended to hand and foot by the Park Chinois team. Like I said there was a buzz. And even if the chink of glasses and laughter wasn’t a good enough soundtrack, the live band had just kicked off their set with a rendition of Al Green’s – I’m so into you!
My daze was interrupted by the bar tender handing me a menu. He asked what I was in the mood for. The truth was I actually wanted a beer. Something that I could take my time with. Something cold. But the words Bilecart Salmon jumped off the menu.
“Done. We’ll have 2 of those”.
It’s not very often that I see that on a menu being served by the glass. I love Billecart-Salmon. But to have it served to me in a Riedel Glass from a magnum, I was in heaven and seriously scoring some top points with Mrs 12. We were perched on the bar, but it was a small area. I’m guessing just having 15-20 people in that area would pack it out and probably come in the way of diners looking to get to their tables. But what did I care. It was just the 2 of us.
After having finished being mesmerised by the live band, we eventually took our seats. Despite having a small table, we had great seats. We sat in a raised section to the side of the restaurant, giving us a fantastic view. But before I could even look at the menu, I had to go downstairs and explore. I wanted to know what ‘new money’ seating felt like. It wasn’t for me and Mrs 12 but it was beautiful. The downstairs area was fantastic. It was dark, had a much larger bar, and a much more funky vibe. In fact I think there was a DJ playing. Curiosity satisfied – and I dashed back upstairs to the more refined and elegant setting.
Now before I go on, I must say that Mrs 12 and I love our Asian food. We have an almost geek like obsession with all the flavours, herbs, spices and nuances that each dish offers. Of course, we can’t help but compare Park Chinois food to that of say China Tang, just like we can’t knock people who compare the food to that from restaurants in China. But Park Chinois is in a class of its own. Not better, just different. Its entire menu has been designed to suit both its location (Mayfair baby) and its clientele. It has a Cantonese theme with an international twist on dishes to suit people from all parts of Asia.
The Food at Park Chinois
Mrs 12 is vegetarian and I most certainly AM NOT! So what this does is give us a chance to try a broad spectrum of dishes, catering for both of us.
We at the following:
From the Dim Sum Menu – Szchuan vegetable dumplings & The Cornish Crab Won Ton. Both were just superb. In fact and I’m embarrassed to admit it but we ordered another round of the Vegetable Dumplings because they were so good.
From the Appetisers – the Green papaya salad with squid – simply divine.
Soup – We shared the classic Hot & Sour Soup – breathtaking
For mains – Mrs 12 had the Hakka Paneer & I had the Yin Yan Prawn with Chinese Chive Flower. I was pleasantly surprised to see Hakka Paneer on their menu. A dish typically found in Indian restaurants but here served with a Pan-Asian twist. Superb!
Across the board we thought the food was fantastic. A real effort had been placed not just on the presentation (a given anywhere you’re paying big bucks) but also in the quality and freshness of each individual component. Making the end result, a delicious and moorish explosion of flavours.
Park Chinois Menu
The Wine At Park Chinois
Now this isn’t a food blog so let’s talk WINE. Again I thought the wine list was catered for more of an international audience. I’m no Russian Oligarch and looking at the wines and knowing the margins alone was annoying. But we were in Mayfair and that’s the norm. I accept that. But even the ‘cheapest’ range was from £60-£120 offered VERY little in the way of excitement. The wine list is VAST and packed with a few unheard and interesting sounding wines. But at those prices, I’m not entirely sure I was ready to take that gamble. But where the wine list in my mind was a little bit over the top, was when it literally featured almost every fine wine you could possibly think of. You name it they had it. From Petrus to Le Pin, from First Growths to DRC – they had it. Like seriously, WTF?!
Their wine list reminded me a bit of an article we wrote last year ‘So Long a Wine List-So Short a Food Menu!’ I played it safe. Despite the expansive list, I thought I was best to just order some more Billecart.
The evening was wonderful. The food, the service, the champagne and most of all the live band created an ambience that made me go back. At one point I got so lost in the music that I thought I was actually sat in Ronnie Scotts. So few good restaurants take the chance of having a live band and for Park Chinois, this has really paid off. I’ve been there three times this year already. Would I go back? Probably not for a while, but I’d have no problem in recommending this restaurant to any friends and family that happened to be looking for a Chinese restaurant in Mayfair.
Before I sign off, I will say that lunch was a different experience. The place is much quieter, there’s few people, no band and all the lights are on full blast. To me, it didn’t feel much like a lunch place. But definitely a great place for dinner.