Out for a duck at Imperial Treasure. Plus, affordable pinot noirs
There is an assumption that the more you spend on an experience, the better it will be. I am forever guilty of such a delusion, borne more of hopefulness than stupidity. Few things give the lie to this better than the grinding, laboured, thudding mediocrity of a meal at Imperial Treasure, the London outpost of a gilded Chinese restaurant group which is to joy, what a public enema is to dignity.
It is the manner in which they serve their “signature” Peking duck which most spectacularly deadens the soul, though why anybody would want to sign this beats me. Granted, Peking duck can be a truly marvellous thing. If your only experience of the Chinese way with duck is the aromatic crispy variety, the crowd-pleasing effect achieved via a journey through the deep fat fryer, then consider the joys to come.
Peking duck is aromatic crispy duck’s grown-up sibling, the one that’s been to finishing school and learnt a few manners. Often, it must be ordered in advance, for this is cooking as performance: the bird must be steamed or plunged into boiling water, dried, seasoned and left to hang for 24 hours before being roasted so that the skin becomes like amber glass. And yes, it costs. Here, it’s £100. Ouch.
But look, this is Imperial Treasure. It occupies ies a huge marbled space just off Pall Mall, with ceilings so high they are hidden in the shadows. It is decorated in sexy strips of textured, golden wood, soft leather and finely ely chiselled hubris. The website announces they have Michelin helin stars at their other restaurants in China. Hug yourself elf with pleasure, sell a kidney, or plunder a former Soviet oviet central Asian state. You might as well. Many of the clientele entele who can afford this place probably will have done.
For here it comes and oh, what a beauty, shimmering himmering gold and copper and bronze. Do we eat this bird ird or hang it on the wall? A fully toqued Chinese chef hef lays it on a board table-side and sets to work, first taking aking off a thin layer of fatless skin, presented in squares res with a bowl of sugar to dip it in. We pluck away daintily intily with our chopsticks, and ooh and sigh, because this is cost £100. The least we can do is look like we are enjoying our act of conspicuous consumption. They bring ring bamboo steamer baskets of hand-shaped pancakes, alongside shredded spring onions, cucumber and hoisin sauce. All is good. Here are slices of the duck, and yes, it’s delightful: soft meat, crisp skin, the liquorice, soy and caramel kick of the hoisin.
As I eat, I glance at the duck. Hurrah. There is so much 9 Waterloo Place, London SW1Y 4BE (020 3011 1328) Starters £12-£36
Main courses £18-£100+ Peking Duck £100 Desserts £7.50
Wines from £38
eTall orde order: (from left) Peking duck; the restaurant; aubergine mapo to tofu; chicken with flaked almonds; prawns with chilli and cash cashews; dumplings; veg, shrimps and noodles; and pork
more to go. The legs have barely been touched. There’s a ballas ballast of glistening skin and meat around the arse end, and more around its back. Suddenly the chef lays down his h blade, picks up the platter, bows and walks off back to the kitchen. Hang on a second. That bird is barely half-cut half-cut. I paid a ton for it. And you’re taking it away? At Min Jiang Jian on the top floor of the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensing Kensington where the dish costs £72 and is also available by the half, h the meat returns in a second service, perhaps as a stir fry or in a soup. Here, we are told, it is a pancake filling and a nothing else. Lord knows what happens to the rest. Fur Fury, is a £100 half-cut duck.
I should shou have said something. I should have roared like Brian Bria Blessed, after he’s stubbed a toe. Perhaps if I’d asked aske for it they’d have returned the rest of the bird, but the whole place is shaped to smother dissent, even of shouty, self-confident sweary bastards like me. It’s designed to make you feel as if they are doing you a favour through gritted teeth. There is crisp linen. There are battalions of heel-clicking waiters, all but one of whom is European; the Chinese are on the other side of the kitchen door. The junior waiters wear high-buttoned
The slices of Peking duck are delightful: soft meat, crisp skin, the liquorice, soy and caramel kick of the hoisin sauce