Grand Imperial clearly has big ambitions. The £2 million spent on refurbishing the space it inhabits within the Grosvenor Hotel right next to Victoria Station would attest to that, as would the blurb on its website proclaiming itself a “unique restaurant that offers exquisite cuisine for the discerning gourmand” and “a truly outstanding dining experience in the heart of London”. With statements like that, Grand Imperial had much to live up to.
The restaurant attempts to project an air of opulence, but doesn’t quite succeed – the impressive high ceilings offset by the eyesore that is the large (empty at the time of our visit) fish tanks that greet you at the entrance; the fine china that adorn the tables cancelled out by the large marble columns, presumably part of the building’s structure, that looked completely out of sync with the rest of the décor. It was an unconvincing start.
The menu was fairly extensive, but contained nothing especially exciting or out of the ordinary. As it was Chinese New Year, and we were celebrating with old friends, we began with Salmon Yu Shang. “Yu Shang” is a dish popular in Malaysia and Singapore and served only during Chinese New Year – the best way to describe it is probably as a raw fish salad which everyone tosses at the table whilst uttering good wishes for the year ahead. It’s an interactive dish, and a bit of fun, but also makes for a good appetiser. This version was average at best – the salmon was not the freshest, and the sauce insufficient at first (we asked for more) and lacking in flavour.
Next was classic Roasted Peking Duck. Whilst the pancake was thin and of a good texture, the duck skin felt stale and ‘tired’, like it had been reheated a number of times. The second serving of the Peking duck dish – Spicy Minced Duck with Lettuce Wrap was passable, but nothing to write home about.
Perennial favourite Lobster Noodles with Ginger and Spring Onion was awful. The lobster was badly overcooked and the noodles were hard, almost al dente – perhaps this was an attempt to be different, perhaps this was simply unintentionally undercooked; either way it was bad. In addition, the sauce was too bland and overall the dish lacked the depth of flavour it should usually have. Considering that this is a dish so many restaurants in London do so well, Grand Imperial’s dire rendition was especially lamentable.
The dishes we had with rice were no improvement. Sautéed Scallops & Mushrooms with Asparagus tasted of nothing. Treasure Golden Bowl, a special Chinese New Year dish, was marginally better but that’s not saying much. Sautéed Chicken with Sweet Basil Chilli & Spring Onion in Stoneware had a bit more flavour to it but again nothing special. The vegetable dish was a heap of boiled spinach topped with shredded dry scallop and some non-descript sauce. Braised Eggs Noodles with Golden Mushroom and Conpoy completed the ensemble of woefully insipid dishes.
We had two desserts, Ginger Tea with Glutinous Rice Dumpling and Pan-fried Traditional “nian gao” or “New Year Cake”. The glutinous rice dumplings were fine; everything else, unsurprisingly, poor, entirely in keeping with the rest of the meal. Service too was substandard – the waitress kept spilling tea over us (neglecting to apologise). And just when we thought it was all over, the restaurant had one final insult for us – the bill for 9 people worked out to be over £55 each.Walk into any random Chinese restaurant in Queensway or Chinatown and it is more than likely that you will eat better, and an absolute certainty that you will eat cheaper. A “unique restaurant” this certainly was – uniquely bad. Especially given its huge ambitions, bold claims and prices to match, Grand Imperial is laughably inept.
In a nutshell…
Horrible. The setting wasn’t too bad, and certainly much better than your average Chinese restaurant, but that really is an irrelevance when the cooking is this incompetent.
101 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0SJ
Average Price: £40-£50