MIN JIANG: TOP OF THE HIGH STREET DIM SUM
As rules-of-thumb go the one that says that the quality of the food in a restaurant is in inverse proportion to its view is not a bad one. You can’t really moan – you, the diner and the restaurant are usually complicit in the unwritten agreement that the latter’s responsibility starts and ends by providing a fabulous vista.
This doesn’t apply so much in London where, to be honest the views, especially from elevated positions are, well, a bit crap – the city as a whole being a bit of a dog’s dinner architecturally.
It was a bit of a surprise then, that my Dim Sum lunch at Chinese restaurant Min Jiang, situated at the top of The Kensington Gardens Hotel, was so enjoyable. Certainly because of the food which I already knew about –
DH’s visit a year ago confirmed that this was a very capable kitchen – but the fact the view over Kensington Gardens was really rather pleasant. Lots of green stuff (trees I think), not too many cranes. That sort of stuff.
Min Jiang is, of course, well known for its Roast Duck, of which they sell an astonishing twenty plus per day but I was here to try their Dim Sum. I already knew about their excellent Xiao Long Bao, Shanghai Dumplings filled with a savoury stock, which had piqued my interest about their other “bits of the heart”.
I had my answer as soon as I started nibbling at a little bowl of lightly pickled vegetables. The veg had been marinated in vinegar together with a little salt and sugar. Simple, sure, but light and tart and delicious.
Everything is freshly prepared and cooked to order by the chef (from Hong Kong) and the results show – this is some of the best Dim Sum cooking in London. Ok, the range isn’t wildly inventive or particulary extensive but there is a preciseness to the preparation and a lightness to the end result which didn’t leave me feeling bloated and harbouring a MSG-induced migraine even after nine dishes.
For the steamed stuff Har Gau and Pumpkin Dumpling were little balls densely packed with seafood. The skin was delicate, if a little thick, but miles ahead of the usual industrial Gau. Xiao Long Bao were still present and correct with a good, scaldingly-hot stock and meaty filling.
Char Siu Puffs – pastry encasing a rich porky filling - were a revelation, all hot and crumbly. Cubes of squidgy Turnip Cake were made into a spicy stir fry. Greaseless Spring Rolls came tightly packed with shredded Beijing Duck with a thick dipping sauce. A special of silky smooth rolls of Cheung Fun were stuffed with nuggets BBQ’d Pork.
Yam Croquettes show the kitchen’s dab hand at frying. In more run-of-the-mill places these will spend most of their last hours sunning themselves in a warmer. Here, at Min Jiang, they’re brought fresh from the deep-fat fryer. Great stuff.
Does the Chinese Custard Tart have its origins in Britain (home of the tart) or Portugal (home of the Pastel de Nata) ? For me it’s of minor interest but the delicate little cakes served here were wolfed down pretty quickly.
Min Jiang’s prices are a bit higher than the norm but then so are their standards. And to make sure you appreciate each dish there’s plenty of plate swapping. Think of it as eating from a tasting menu rather than a er, bun fight where everything is served at once and you all dive in. It’s altogether a calmer and more civilised experience.
You may prefer the hustle and bustle and cheapness of a Chinatown joint or the more modern spin at the disco-like Hakkasan or even the buzzy Yauatcha where you pay for the staff to be snotty and superior to you. It’s probably a sign of age but I was more than happy at Min Jiang - it has great food, friendly staff and a nice view. I may have just discovered my perfect Dim Sum joint.