I loved the setting at China Tang – elegant and opulent but not garish, you are immediately whisked away to a faraway land, even if for me that faraway land was a 5-star hotel in modern day Asia where many similarly decorated restaurants can be found, rather than the 1930’s Shanghai the restaurant is meant to represent. Nevertheless, sense of escapism duly achieved.
The rest of the experience, however, left much to be desired. The menu is classic Cantonese, which was mildly disappointing – a couple of more creative dishes alongside the classics would have been welcome. Even more disappointing was the fact that the classics weren’t done very well at all. Classic Peking Duck was decent, but not of the standard even of Min Jiang. The pancake was especially dire – it was floury and not nearly thin enough. Even Grand Imperial was better on this count. The second serving of the Peking duck was a simple stir-fry with bean sprouts – the duck was reasonably good, but the dish was boring and uninspired, not to mention drenched in oil.
Our initial order of Classic Steamed Scallops on Half Shell with Black Bean was unavailable, so we opted instead to replace it with a couple of items from the all-day dim-sum menu – Siu Mai Dumplings and Scallop Dumplings. These were respectable.
The rest of the dishes then arrived en mass. Stir Fried Beef in Black Pepper and Salt and Pepper Squid were fine, if undistinguishable from many of the versions I have had in Queensway and Chinatown, and inferior to the better ones. Soft Shell Crabs Fried with Egg Yolk did not exhibit the lightness the best dishes of this ilk do, and the egg yolk was undetectable. Abalone Fried Rice was well presented, individually in a bamboo pot, but looked much better than it tasted – it was completely bland, and the use of abalone added nothing – it could just as easily have been chicken without us noticing the difference.
Lobster in Ginger Spring Onions with Noodles was appalling. The fragrant taste and smell of the ginger that is usually a feature of this dish was completely lacking. Instead the sauce was far too salty, and flavourless, and insufficient, resulting in a dish that was much too dry and pretty grim. The basic presentation – a lump of noodles topped with pieces of lobster and sauce on a small, plain plate was also poor, especially considering this is an extravagant dish that naturally lends itself to a grander presentation. It was probably the worst rendition of this popular dish I have ever had.
By this point, we were so disappointed with the quality of the cooking that we didn’t even bother with dessert. The meal cost £60 per head – we didn’t expect prices to be low at a place like this, but we did at least expect the food to be of a much higher standard. I should add that portions were tiny, which always infuriates me at a restaurant that charges as much as this.
One final thing I must mention. Whilst in our seats, we kept getting knocked and jostled by the wait staff, each time without so much as an apology. I would just about tolerate that in Chinatown, but in a supposed ‘5-star’ establishment in The Dorchester, this was unacceptable.
The only redeeming feature about this place is the setting. It is probably the most impressive and luxurious venue to entertain guests with Chinese cuisine in London. But the food is so bad I couldn’t even begin to consider returning. The high prices, for this quality (and quantity) of food, made the entire experience even more difficult to stomach. The surroundings might not be quite as glamorous, but give me a restaurant in Queensway or even Chinatown any day of the week – I would leave infinitely more satisfied.
In a nutshell…
Really bad. The beautiful venue does not come even remotely close to making up for the poor food, high prices and tiny portions.
The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane, London, W1K 1QA
Average price: £60