Walking into Park Chinois is like walking into a Chinese-inspired Wes Anderson movie. It’s a sumptuous cliché of Oriental, 1930s glamour, and utterly aware of its own kitsch charm. Despite it being mid-May, there’s a fire roaring away in the lobby. We walk past the door and into the dining room to find tasseled everything, waiting staff wearing actual waistcoats, and a jazz band crooning over the dining room at the head of a dancefloor. The bathroom taps are formed from golden swans. Plush is not the word.
Sitting on a settee so deeply cushioned we’re in danger of losing ourselves in it, we tear our eyes away from our surroundings and focus instead on the menu. It’s massive, and split into sections with Dim Sum at the top and larger meals towards the bottom. We don’t make it very far past the Dim Sum before we’re overcome by food-FOMO, and ask an enthusiastic and endearingly cheerful waiter for some help. He reels off his favourite dishes while we nod and look hungry.
The first offering to hit our table is a steaming basket of char sui bao – fluffy clouds of steamed dough with a sweet and yet still intensely savouring filling. Next, a house special – the har gau dumpling. Firm and tasty with a satisfying bite in the form of a perfectly-cooked prawn filling. The jazz band are still crooning as we tuck into beancurd and prawn cheung fun. Described by the waiter as a kind of Chinese cannelloni, it comes in a generous portion and is smothered in sauce at the table before your eyes.
We begin to feel full, but there’s more to come – deep-fried taro croquettes, looking like little hedgehogs in their crispy, spiky coating, which is somewhere between a pastry and a batter. They’re excellent with a good dunking in some chilli oil. Then, a hint of French influence that matches the chintz-upholstered armchairs, in the form of a venison puff – a button-like pod of pastry filled with peppery venison and topped with sesame seeds.
Finally, we were unable to resist what was listed as an appetiser but turns out to be a dish large enough to feed four: Iberico rack of ribs, slow-cooked and smoked in fragrant Jasmine tea. It’s carved up at your table, where the meat falls of the bone with minimal persuasion. It’s everything ribs should be – sticky, sweet, tender, and messy. There’s a hint of the Jasmine in the air around it, but not a strong flavour.
Park Chinois is a caricature of an opulent Chinese restaurant (though without a lazy Susan in sight), utterly civilised and still heaps of fun. It’s expensive, for sure (their infamously good duck is on the dinner menu for £95) but, as an experience, it’s fantastic, and well worth considering for something special. Or just, you know… an excuse to dress up and feel fancy.
We The Food Snobs x