Madam Fan brings back old-world and in­ti­mate Chi­nese din­ing; down jack­ets rein­vented; and a Blue­tooth-en­abled lug­gage lock that has re­de­fined safe travel.


Un­less you book one of its private rooms, you are not likely to get a ta­ble for more than four at Madame Fan at the re­fur­bished NCO Club. That’s be­cause Alan Yau – the Hong Kong-born restau­ra­teur, and founder of Asian food chain Waga­mama in Bri­tain – has pri­ori­tised in­ti­macy and in­ter­ac­tion in his first South-east Asian es­tab­lish­ment.

“At big Chi­nese restau­rants, the huge ta­bles mean there is no di­a­logue among the guests, ex­cept those next to you,” Yau says. “That’s not the point of a din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.”

For Yau, who has an Order of the Bri­tish Em­pire (OBE) for his ser­vices to the res­tau­rant in­dus­try in Bri­tain, the best Chi­nese din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences were in the 1930s, the jazz age – an era that Madame Fan has brought back in a build­ing that used to house a social club for Bri­tish of­fi­cers in the 1950s.

With its Euro­pean Art Deco aes­thet­ics, an el­e­vated plat­form in the res­tau­rant for live bands, and its mu­sic choices, which are never Chi­nese but ei­ther jazz or English pop, “Madame Fan isn’t just a res­tau­rant; it’s also an en­ter­tain­ment con­cept”, says Yau.

Its old-world grandeur com­ple­ments Yau’s recipe for what makes great Chi­nese food: all that is re­as­sur­ingly tra­di­tional. “I love that Chi­nese food is about shar­ing and com­mu­nity,” says Yau. “There is home­li­ness and a cer­tain com­fort in that affin­ity.”

The im­pre­sario doesn’t mess with what works. On the menu are favourites like lob­ster noo­dles, dou­ble­boiled soup, black pep­per crab and dim sum, all with no-frills plat­ing.

Serv­ing clas­sic fare doesn’t mean that no tech­ni­cal nous dif­fer­en­ti­ates its Chi­nese food from that of oth­ers. For ex­am­ple, chef Mike Tan (who has had stints in New York and Bei­jing) el­e­vates the drunken crab rice noo­dle dish with a broth that uses a 20-year-old rice wine – an in­gre­di­ent that isn’t eas­ily avail­able com­mer­cially. The wine’s two decades of age­ing re­sults in a more ro­bust flavour that makes this dish one of Madame Fan’s sig­na­tures.

True to keep­ing it old-world, other than wine and cham­pagne, only clas­sic cock­tails are served here.

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