14-16 Queensway, Bayswater. W2 3RX
Telephone: 020 7727 9012
Nearest Tube: Queensway or Bayswater
Hint. Never think it’s a great unique brainwave to descend on Mandarin Kitchen’s premises around Chinese New Year. Why? Every man and his Dog (how fortuitous) has exactly the same idea. Doh…
We made a booking for the CNY eve at 9:30pm and felt privileged to secure the Golden Ticket. On rushing to make our appointment, we hurtled into a hubbub of chaos and uncertainty. It was as if we had entered a black hole, where time and common decency are mere suggestions.
9:30pm happened to coincide with the change-over of dining patrons. Probably a better idea to stagger the times or (here’s an idea) anticipate the change-over and hire more staff to cope. Needless to say, my face came into close contact with many of a breast/nipple (I’m not that tall) whilst waiting for our table.
9:30pm came and waved good-bye with barely a glance back. By 10pm we tried to guess which table would be allocated to us and tried to stare the occupants down. Never works of course. I know. If you’re the one sitting down, you’re overcome by a overwhelming sense of smugness and take great delight in sipping your tea slowly or trying to stab the last grain of rice in your bowl with a toothpick. Infuriating for hungry on-lookers.
By 10:20pm we were starting to feel a tad narky. For the love of god – we made a reservation! And we weren’t the only ones who were on the verge of staging a semi-peaceful demonstration for human rights. We soon realised that the table we were meant to have had finished their dinner AGES ago. For the last hour they had run out of conversation and looked terribly bored whilst waiting for their bill.
By 10:45pm we were seated and I can now officially rant about the food. Our frustration in obtaining a table was temporarily abated by noticing another group of people who had arrived the same time as us (with a reservation no less) and were only seated an hour after us. I’m ashamed to admit it, but yes, a feeling of smugness did creep into my consciousness. (Yes I will be damned into oblivion.)
To bring in good luck for the New Year we had yee sang. A more Malaysian and Singaporean CNY tradition than it is mainland China. Normally fresh raw fish (usually salmon) is mixed with julienned vegetables accompanied by plum sauce, five-spice powder, sesame seeds, crushed nuts, and crunchy stuff. The idea is for everyone to dive in with their chopsticks to help mix the ingredients together (the higher the better) and shout "loi hei" which means longevity, prosperity and liveliness. The Mandarin Kitchen had their own version of this which involved just plum sauce and wasabi and soy sauce to dip the raw salmon in. OK, but no cigar. I’ve had better.
Peking Duck, a northern China delicacy, was gorgeous. This pleasantly surprised us. The skin was ravishingly crispy and devoid of fat.
The lobster noodles arrived with fanfare and was as expected – divine intervention. Firm, succulent lobster stir-fried with ginger and scallions accompanied with egg noodles soaked in lobster-rich sauce. Always a pleasure.
The other dishes were disappointing. I guess compared to the decadence of the lobster noodles and Peking Duck it was hard to top. The steamed Japanese silken tofu with soy sauce and shallots felt it needed an injection of flavour.
The Fried dried pork dish came out exactly as it sounded. Felt like eating burnt stringy dry as a bone pork. Couldn’t even finish it.
By the time we finished eating it was ticking over to 1am. The bill was reasonably price at £35 per head including alcohol.
Verdict on Mandarin Kitchen? Order the dishes they’re famous for and you won’t be disappointed. Steer way clear of the others. Oh and if you’re going during CNY – you’d be well advised to book ahead for an earlier dinner to avoid the chaotic change-over period.