Is location really king? All those home programmes will have you believe that it is, after all there’s a whole show actually called ‘Location Location Location’. But there needs to be more and a swanky Mayfair location cannot automatically bestow a great end product.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, this is a tale of a family visit to Princess Garden of Mayfair. At first sight, the room is definitely a cut above the standard Chinese restaurant fare, the room is in muted colours of brown and taupe, with a smiling Buddha greeting us as we enter, relics and ornaments displayed prettily in a sparkling glass cabinet.
We’re seated very quickly and one thing I do like is that we have a round table, all the best for the sharing food around the Lazy Susan that a good Chinese family meal is all about.
We opt to start with portions of the hot and sour soup and the Peking Duck, they let us know that we’ll get more pancakes if we opt to make our own compared to if they were to do it for us – a slightly strange declaration to be making as we’re ordering, so we agree to do all the pancake assembly ourselves. Some might argue that’s where half the fun of the duck pancake lies anyway.
You may not get a lot of hot and sour soup for your dough, but it is absolutely sublime. It’s rich, hot, spicy without being overpoweringly so and manages to convey a taste of all the flavours and ingredients that make up this complex dish. It is without a doubt, the best soup I have ever had. The pancakes are standard fare, found in any restaurant in Chinatown. The duck is a little too well done but it does make for some lovely crispy caramel-y bits, but I fear this is accidental rather than by design.
For mains, we order up a selection, all the better for a group to share and there are no complaints! Some of the mains are no better than what you’d have in Chinatown, but the prawns and spicy chicken are the highlights of the night, a cut above what I’d expect.
Service is a bit hit and miss, there are a hundred waiters and staff members milling about, but none of them seem to be coherently managed and we can’t figure out who is meant to be serving us and who we should be asking for refills of water, questions or to order any more. Instead, it takes a village to serve our little party and it’s a little bit frustrating and doesn’t leave us with an impression of any kind of fine dining or service quality.
Chinese desserts can take some getting used to, but we are brave warriors and we order up one of each to share. The double boiled snoe fungus is odd and not that sweet, but that’s what we get for ordering something with fungus in the tile. The mango pudding and sago pudding with taro should have been chilled for better effect instead of served lukewarm and so doesn’t make for a satisfying ending.
Overall, it was a mixed review – while the food was perfectly fine, save the soup which was exceptional, there were no other redeeming qualities that marked this out as fine dining. If not for the fact that this was a family dinner and we are capable of having fun wherever we go, it would have come as somewhat of a disappointment, being simply not worth the premium for the Mayfair location.