One restaurant that I find to be strangely overlooked by the London food blogosphere is Michelin starred Chinese, Kai Mayfair. It’s the one that appeared in the Chinese heat of the Channel 4 series, Ramsay’s Best Restaurant. Playing the role of Goliath – in the David & Goliath angle the programme was clearly shooting for – it eventually lost out to humble Lancashire based underdog, Yu and You.
The owner is Bernard Yeoh: an ex-Olympian who represented Malaysia in the trap-shooting event in Athens. Supposedly he’s still toying with the idea of competing in the London 2012 games, due to start in just a week’s time.
The setting is fairly intimate with diffuse lighting and gigantic prints of Oriental ladies’ faces. Comfortable fabric seats with colourful cushions and white linen tables quickly settle you into the environment. A state of repose deepened by the numerous interactions you’ll have with the managers who engage you in genuine conversation throughout.
Kai takes a slightly different approach to Chinese cuisine, blending the traditional with the not so traditional and presenting food in a way that is notably modern. Care has been taken in assembling a fine selection of wines, though the mark-up is astronomically high in places even for an upmarket restaurant. If you’re willing to overlook this fact, or are simply so stinking rich that the concept of value is as unfamiliar to you as Mickey Rourke looking back at pictures of himself at age 20, then the excellent sommelier, Roberto is on hand to assist you.
Wasabi prawns £17
A Kai staple is a starter of king prawns that come drenched in a wasabi-infused mayonnaise, topped with mango and basil seeds. Thankfully the mayo takes the sting out of the wasabi to avert the rising sensation of doom up my nasal cavities which often accompanies heavy wasabi usage.
Duke of Berkshire pork £21
Another appetiser involves the succulent thrill of honey roasted Char-siew pork, served with steamed pancakes à la aromatic crispy duck. A hoi-sin sauce variant is provided to lubricate the pancakes and elevates the flavour of the intense, Burgundy edged pork.
Dover sole ‘goujons’ £53
If you ever wondered what Michelin starred fish-fingers look like, well here you go. An entire Dover Sole goujoned up in a light eggy batter, topped in a crushed up prawn crumb. The salty edible vertebrae form a neat coil alongside a cup of milk and garlic based dipping sauce, that tastes as if you’d homogenized the toppings of a cheesy meat pizza. Paying £53 for what is essentially comfort food seems bizarre, yet I feel oddly compelled to recommend it.
Poached lobster essence noodles £12
A moreish side of noodles are poached instead of fried to keep them light, then drizzled with a lovely lobster infused oil.
Lobster braised with spring onions & ginger £54
The much loved London dish of lobster noodles is in prime form at Kai Mayfair. The saucing has the ideal balance of ginger and viscosity. The lobster is beautifully cooked and the waitress goes that extra step further, skillfully organising the noodles into stringy testicular clumps, tableside before serving.
6 textures of chocolate and peanuts £11
Dessert consisted of a plethora of elements all based around chocolate and peanuts, ranging from a biscuity peanut daquoise to a cold milk chocolate parfait to popping candy. It pitters and patters all over your tastebuds like a ballerina on speed. Caringly arranged on the plate, you can’t wait to get stuck in despite being nauseatingly full from the sheer quantity of what went before.
If it isn’t glaringly obvious from the prices I’ve included by each dish, eating at Kai Mayfair is punishingly expensive. Alienatingly so, which may account for the lack of attention paid to it by bloggers in general. It is however the wolf at the top of the hill as far as Chinese restaurants in London go, with traditional classics executed to near perfection and novel dishes that are perhaps even better. Coupled with an exceptional level of service, and an increasingly less common no time limit policy, it’s a great place to come and luxuriate on special occasions. Your only dilemma should be whether or not you are willing to cough up the cash.
food : 9/10
service : 9 / 10
ambience : 7/10
value : 6/10
65 South Audley Street, London W1K 2QU
020 7493 8988