Food and culture are so inherently linked. You really cannot experience one without the other. The smell and taste of food can transport your mind directly to that destination. So when I am not travelling the globe, I explore different countries with my palette.
As of yet, China remains on my Destinations Bucket List. But I am sure that I will one day walk along the Chinese Wall and sail down the Yangtze river into the mountainous countryside. For now though, I will have to stick to Chinese food and preferably not the take-away type.
Luckily, I was invited Min Jiang along with three other travel bloggers to sample the restaurant’s signature dishes. And it just happened to be Min Jiang’s Eighth Anniversary too!
You can imagine how excited I was to sample some of London’s best Chinese Dishes on such a special occasion, whilst enjoying fabulous views across Kensington Gardens.
MIN JIANG’S EIGTH ANNIVERSARY
Min Jiang is an authentic Chinese fine dining restaurant on the tenth floor of the Royal Garden Hotel on Kensington High Street. It opened its doors in 2008 to rave reviews, particularly about its wood-fired Beijing duck and was subsequently awarded three AA Rosettes in 2009.
We had our fabulous meal at 8pm on the 8th of August, eight years after it’s grand opening. Fellow travel blogger Hayley from A Life of More explained to all of us, that eight has been considered as one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese culture for thousands of years and represents fortune and prosperity.
Indeed in Chinese, the number 8 (pronounced “ba”) sounds much like the word for fortune (pronounced “fa”). In fact, just this year a number plate simply reading ’28’ (which in Mandarin sounds similar to ‘easy fortune’) sold for over 2 million US dollars. Quite some lucky number then! I thus had no doubt that my visit to Min Jiang would become not only a night of good food, but also one of good fortune.
LOCATION OF MIN JIANG
The Royal Garden Hotel is located on Kensington High Street, right next door to Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. So if you stay for a night, there’s a chance your neighbours might be royalty.
As the elevator doors open on the tenth floor, you will quickly be struck by the unmistakeably sweet and rich smell of Chinese Food, as it wafts up your nose and makes your stomach pang with hunger.
INTERIOR AND ATMOSPHERE OF MIN JIANG
Hotel Restaurants can sometimes be somewhat lacking in atmosphere, as fellow Travel Blogger was quick to pointed out. All to often they feel like transient spaces, in which people only ever dine once.
Not so with Min Jiang. As I walked through the doors of the restaurant I was pleased to find the place buzzing and packed with people. This was even more surprising, considering the fact that it was a Monday night.
I immediately noted that there was a reassuring number of Chinese diners enjoying their evening, a good omen for things to come.
The next thing that struck me was the skyline. At Min Jiang you really cannot miss the vast panoramic view across Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. Beyond the green I could just about make out the city’s business district.
This was the first time, I saw the city’s skyline from the west, as most of skyscrapers and public viewing platforms in London are located to the east. The view from Min Jiang is quite different from the rest. It is considerably less cluttered and I bet that on a clear evening you can see for miles.
There are windows running along the length of the restaurant. And because the bar and restaurant are spread across a long and narrow room, every table enjoys the same stunning view of the city.
The restaurant aims for a high-end finish and is beautifully decorated with Chinese Porcelain. The dominant colour is red, another lucky symbol of Chinese culture. And the interior is laid out into two separate spaces, the bar and lounge on one side and the restaurant on the other. Nonetheless Min Jiang somehow manages to remain modest. The focus here is clearly on the flavours of the food and quality of service.
COCKTAILS AT MIN JIANG
We kicked off the evening with a couple of pre-dinner cocktails as we made light chatter.
There was a huge choice of creative and exotic cocktails to choose from. But whilst two of my companions opted for the simple Bellini and one ordered a Min Jiang Phoenix, I chose to be a little more extravagant and asked for a Golden Dragon.
The cocktail was truly delicious, smooth and tropical, just as it should be. With cocktails starting from about £9 each, Min Jiang is cheaper than many other bars in town and boasts incredible views across the city on top.
We quickly settled into the relaxed rhythm of the evening. As soon as we were ready we were politely led to our round-table for four to start the feast.
A HOT TOWL REFRESHMENT
But before food was served, our waiter brought out a couple of hot towels. I love this custom of Asian countries and sometimes wish that we were as civilised as them. I picked the piping hot flannel up and wiped of the grime of the day. All the whilst enjoying the comfort and warmth the towel provides.
A SET MENU TO CELEBRATE MIN JIANG’S EIGTH ANNIVERSARY
We were then served a set menu to celebrate Min Jiang’s eight anniversary. Our dinner featured six different regional courses from North China, Sichuan and South China – so that we could taste the whole country.
Each course was also paired with a wine or champagne to bring out the flavours of the dishes.
Note that whilst this was a set-menu all the dishes we were served are also available on Min Jiang’s A La Carte menu.
While Min Jiang serves classic Chinese dishes with a modern twist, it is often said that it provides the most authentic experience of Chinese fair. Indeed none of the dishes have been tweaked to accommodate the western palette. Legendary chef Han Wong, who created the menu for Min Jiang was trained in Malaysia before he moved to the UK.
My knowledge and understanding of Chinese cuisine is rather limited, so a set menu was the perfect alternative. Much better than having to pick one or two dishes from a long menu. I am also pleased to report that all the dishes at Min Jiang were excellently prepared and that I would be more than happy to order them all again.
STEAMED DIM SUM PLATTER (SOUTH CHINA)
Our Chinese feast began in style with a glass of Louis Roederer Champagne, green tea and a selection of steamed vegetable and prawn dumplings.
Served in a traditional bamboo steamer, the steamed dumplings looked stunning, and almost too good to eat. Indeed, for a while, no one dared to make the first move. Instead we all focused on capturing their beauty with our cameras.
Min Jiang is particularly renowned for dim sum and this steamed dim sum platter certainly hit the spot. They had been cooked for just the right length of time and were bursting with flavour.
The silky texture of the pastry filled with different combinations of fresh ingredients was close to heavenly. It was so soft and fresh!
There were four dim sum for each of us. Whilst the white dim sum was simply filled with prawn meat, the yellow dim sum was enhanced with carrot, the speckled dim sum made the most of herbs and spices and the green dumpling was filled with a gooey vegetable puree. All dim sums were handmade and wrapped.
My favourite dim sum of the evening however was the yellow one. The prawns were succulent and so juicy. And the carrot added a certain je-ne-sais-quoi.
The champagne was also exactly to my liking. Dry with just enough bubbles to feel them in my nose.
LEGENDARY WOODFIRED BEIJING DUCK (NORTH CHINA)
The next course – the legendary wood-fired Beijing duck – was served up with a show-stopping performance. It is Min Jiang’s signature dish, meticulously prepared by the chef according to an ancient recipe from Beijing. The aim is to offer dinners as authentic an experience as possible.
The duck meat is sourced from an Irish farm and smoked with applewood to give it a rich, smokey but also slightly sweet flavour. It is then cooked to perfection in a wood-fired oven.
Finally, the whole wood-fired duck is presented and carved directly at your table, by a very skilled chef who expertly slices the meat so that each piece has the same thickness. This is done at lightning speed, as you might be able to tell by the blurred movement of the photograph, and is a spectacle in itself. How I wish I had such knife skills!
The duck is served with a spread of sauces – which include the classic hoi sin sauce – thinly sliced vegetables and homemade pancakes.
The chef also left a separate plate with crispy slices of duck neck and advised us to dip them in a small bowl of granulated sugar to compliment the taste. This idea would never have crossed my mind, but made for a delicious experience. The duck fat literally melted in my mouth.
The duck meat itself was delicious, tender and juicy with just the right balance of fat and crispy lacquered skin. The best way to eat it is to wrap a couple of slices in a fluffy airy pancake together with cucumber, spring onion and plum sauce or (in the more Korean style) with radish, garlic paste and tientsin cabbage. Then devour the whole lot.
I am also happy to report that the champagne kept flowing throughout this course, making it indulgently delicious.
A SELECTION OF CHINESE DISHES FOR OUR MAIN COURSE
Now you might think we would have moved on to dessert next. Not so, we still hadn’t had our main course: a spectacular selection of three succulent chinese dishes served with fried noodles. The trio of dishes was paired with a light red wine to bring out the sweet flavours.
SAUTEED GONG BAO TIGER PRAWNS (SICHUAN)
The first of these three dishes was the Sichuan dish of Sauteed Gong Bao Tiger Prawns. The prawns were covered in a deliciously sticky ginger glaze and stir-fried with roasted cashews and chilli. While I expected the dish to be too hot for my palette, it actually turned out to be just spicy enough, and very moorish. I really enjoyed it’s rich, earthy flavours. And better yet, there really was no shortage of prawns.
DICED RIB EYE OF BEEF WITH BLACK PEPPER SAUCE (SOUTH CHINA)
Beef in Black Pepper Sauce is one of those Chinese dishes that can either be a hit or a miss. In some instances the pepper is overpowering and takes the dish. However, when done right, Beef in Black Pepper Sauce is often my favourite meal. In this case the dish was flavoured to perfection. In fact I believe that this southern Chinese dish, was a table favourite. The diced rib eye of beef was ever so tender and had a lovely smoky chargrilled tasted, doused in a rich and mellow sauce. It was nothing short of spectacular.
SLICED PORK BELLY (NORTH CHINA)
The thinly sliced pork belly was served with crispy pork crackling, refreshing cucumber, bean curd and small steamed buns. It is always fun to play with your food and we all had a great time stuffing our Chinese buns. Although they were a little on the small side, making the task fiddly and the dish more of a slider than a meal on it’s own. The pork however was soft and full of flavour with a lovely rich sauce.
MIN JIANG SICHUAN PANCAKE WITH CORNISH VANILLA ICE CREAM (SICHUAN)
We finished off our evening with Min Jiang’s homemade Sichuan Pancakes. They were filled with a sweet red bean paste and served with cooling Cornish ice-cream. Alongside it we were offered a glass of almost honey-like desert wine. I will admit that I am not usually a fan of red bean paste, but actually enjoyed it presented in the pancakes. The pancakes themselves were light and crispy, with sugary layers throughout. The perfect texture to pair with a rich creamy ice cream!
MIN JIANG NUMBER 8 CAKES
Just as I was congratulating myself on finishing every course of this very indulgent meal, Min Jiang brought out four individual mango and white chocolate cakes, topped with some beautiful chocolate decoration to celebrate the restaurant’s eight birthday. The texture of this dessert was fairly unique, similar to a creamy jelly, topped with crisp white chocolate. And the flavours were intense, with the mango clearly shining through.
WHY GO TO MIN JIANG?
With its stunning views across Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park and a menu to match, Min Jiang is the perfect restaurant to celebrate a special occasion. The set menus range from £48 to £88 per person, so dinner at Min Jiang is not the cheapest in London, but the quality of the food, the service, the ambience and the location make it more than worth it. I enjoyed every dish I tasted at Min Jiang and I am looking forward to visit the restaurant again. I would whole-heartedly recommend this restaurant to anyone who would like to experience an authentic Chinese meal in classy surroundings.
GOOD TO KNOW ABOUT MIN JIANG
- Min Jiang is located on the 10th floor of the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.
- When we dined at Min Jiang’s there were 3 special regional menus priced. A £48 set-menu featuring dishes from North China, a £68 set-menu with dishes from the Sichuan region and £88 set-menu with dishes from South China. These menus are no longer available but all dishes are available on the a la carte menu. There are also currently three set menus
- The Beijing duck needs to be pre-ordered.
- Weekends are always very busy so you’ll need to plan well in advance if you’re planning to visit on a Friday or Saturday night.
For more information and booking, visit: www.minjiang.co.uk
Min Jiang London
10th Floor Royal Garden Hotel
2-24 Kensington High St,
London W8 4PT
Tel. (+44) 020 7361 1988
Disclosure: My dining experience at Min Jian was complimentary as part of a press event. But as always all opinions expressed in this article are my own.