The Grand Imperial London is, rather perplexingly, situated within the Grosvenor Hotel at Victoria station and is well hidden in plain sight of the road. I say this because despite passing through Victoria station almost every day, I’d never once noticed its presence, nor had it ever occurred to me to look at what lurked behind the hotel’s doors.
The decor is designed around the practice of Feng Shui – not something I would have known or recognised had I not read it on the website. To my eye, it’s a luxurious room designed to scream both ‘Chinese restaurant’ and ‘classy interior’ all in one. A little cruel perhaps for what is a perfectly acceptable interior.
We have amongst our party a fluent Cantonese speaker and so we absolve all responsibility for ordering as the waiter and Sarah confer in quick fire Cantonese our choices for the day.
First up: Soft shell crab. Finger lickin’ good. Light batter with a crisp chilli, garlic and fried onion topping, this was so good it had people battling to scoop up the last of the garnish long after the crab was demolished.
Chinese Cucumber salad – I’d never come across this before but this has now been added to my Cantonese food ordering stable. Cucumbers, lightly smashed, marinated in Vinegar and Chilli and other good things. Exceedingly simple and so moreish we got through a fair few bowls of this.
Next: Peking Duck. The duck was served two ways, firstly as you might expect with the standard accompaniments of pancakes, cucumber, spring onion and hoi sin sauce. The duck was beautifully shredded before us and presented – a great combination of skin, fat and succulent meat.
The next round came after they’d taken the duck away, fried it with an assortment of chestnuts, mushrooms, onions etc and served in lettuce cups. I personally felt the flavour of the duck was lost in translation with this method, the crispness of the lettuce cups was completely over powered and instead of feeling fresh, it left a residual oily taste in the mouth.
The lobster noodles didn’t skimp on the lobster and unusually for Chinese food, were quite rich so a small portion was in fact plenty.
The stir fried vegetables and chicken were ordinary fare and I didn’t note any special flavour or ingredients to set them apart from one might expect at a quality takeaway or standard restaurant.
I am one of a select few who enjoy Asian desserts and so some had to be ordered to sample and share. We had the Water Chestnut roll wrapped in Angel Hair pasta and the Red Bean dumplings. I’m partial to the Red Bean flavour and these were hot and had a melt in the mouth centre.
Overall verdict? Everything was nice. Underwhelming, but nice enough. The food was acceptable (with exception perhaps of the soft shell crab) but had I not been keeping a record for the purposes of this post, the meal would be forgotten but a few hours later.