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Monday, 18 April 2011

London Restaurant Reviews - Grand Imperial London

Located at the Thistle Grosvenor Hotel by Victoria Station, the Grand Imperial London opened its doors earlier this year after a £2m refurbishment. The rooms have massively high ceilings, marble columns, and have been very tastefully decorated.

White table cloths and bone china adorn every table in sight. Head Chef, Leung Chi Keung, has worked in various Asian restaurants over his long career including the popular Crystal Jade in Shanghai. The restaurant specialises in Cantonese cuisine with a strong emphasis on seafood.

The menu is extensive, but has some rather basic, uninformative translations like "Steamed Chicken" @ £30 or "Canadian Lobster fried with Crispy Noodles" @ £72. At these price levels I would expect more interesting and complete descriptions.

Dr G and I started with a "Dim Sum Platter" @ £12 - there was no information about what this platter might be, but it was a small selection of eight dumplings including shumai, prawn and chive, and others. These were very run of the mill dim sum dumplings, they tasted good, but we both felt they were also a little unexciting.

Or next dish the "Jelly Fish and Barbecued Combination Platter" @ £21 was a real step up. The fine slices of barbecued char siu pork and duck were delicious, sitting on a bed of finely sliced, crunchy jelly fish, onions and carrots that tasted both spicy, sweet and sour.

The "Szechuan Hot & Sour Soup with Lobster" @ £8 was all it said on the tin - it was hot and sour with so little restraint that the delicate lobster in my opinion was completely wasted in the soup.

A much better option was the "Double Boiled Chicken Soup with Wolfberries" @ £6 - this was very light and delicate but with an great intensity of flavour like an excellent homemade stock. I would go as far as to say that this was the best dish of the evening, and one I would happily order again at this restaurant.

Next up, the "Pan-Fried Stuffed Scallops with Minced Shrimps in Foie Gras" @ £24 were delicious - I love the combination of seafood and meat, and this dish was no exception. The scallops were plump and went well with the sweet of the foie gras.

I also enjoyed the "Pan-Fried Beef Roll with Enoki Mushroom" @ £5 (per person). This is similar to a Japanese dish I often cook at home, and so I was curious to try it. Grand Imperial's version was very fine, the meat was tender but in my opinion the enoki mushrooms were too delicate for this dish. I would have used a meatier type like shiitake or oyster mushrooms.

One of the best dishes was the "Sauteed Beef Cube with Black Pepper Sauce" @ £20 - recommended to us by the restaurant manager. I was struck by how tender the meat was, and considering it had only been fried, it showed what excellent quality meat the restaurant must be using.

I adore tofu, and our meal would not have been complete without it - the "Stewed Bean Curd with Seafood in Casserole" @ £18 was a rich and deliciously warming dish that nicely accompanied the "Wok Fried Rice Hokkien Style with Duck and Prawn" @ £12 we also ordered. I loved the myriad flavours and textures in both dishes, particularly the combination of duck and prawn in the Hokkien style rice.

For dessert, Dr G opted for a "Deep-fried Ice Cream" @ £6 which was particularly good. I nearly always find ice cream a slightly boring dessert but this was a completely different ball game. I enjoyed the crisp fried batter with the ice cream, making an otherwise simple dessert into something special.

"Grand Imperial Green Tea Pudding" @ £5 was also delicious and akin to matcha crème Brulée. It was unctuous and not too sweet, with a tinge of a bitter aftertaste from the matcha which was quite pleasing.

The wine list is well thought out with some excellent choices but few options below the £30 mark. The wines are classified by their style: "crisp, aromatic and savoury" for the whites and "smooth, spicy and full-bodied" for the reds, rather than by country. I thought this was useful particularly for diners, like myself, who struggle to match wines to this type of cuisine.

To accompany our meal, we had a 2009 bottle of Italian Soave Classico "Suavia" @ £34 which was excellent.  A white wine from the Veneto region in Italy, Soave is made predominantly from Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave grapes. Chardonnay, and other varieties can sometimes be blended to add complexity. Soave wines have a rather negative image in the UK as most "Soaves" are made by co-operatives in Veneto for the cheap, everyday-wine market purchased in the large supermarkets. These are crisp, with fresh acidity but mainly fruit-neutral wines. 

In my opinion, the Soave to go for is generally a "Soave Classico Superiore" originating from the ancient restricted wine areas of Soave or Monteforte d'Alpone towns. These wines have been matured for at least 8 months in oak barrel and have more complexity, refreshing acidity and pronounced fruit character than other Soaves.

Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of Grand Imperial London. I estimate that the 3 course meal in this restaurant would cost around £35 per person excl. wine.

Likes: the food was mostly very flavoursome with some excellent dishes like the "Double Boiled Chicken Soup with Wolfberries" and the  "Sauteed Beef Cube with Black Pepper Sauce". Service was very attentive and helpful. Beautifully decorated.

Dislikes: on my visit, the restaurant had only recently opened and I felt it lacked a lively atmosphere.

Verdict: delicious Cantonese food in beautiful surroundings with a good wine list and price tags to match. Very convenient location by Victoria Station, and an excellent alternative to similar quality restaurants in Bayswater or Chinatown. Recommended.

Grand Imperial on Urbanspoon


  1. Is it £72 for a single lobster?! Gosh, well, it's certainly a restaurant for a special occasion...

  2. So hard for a hotel restaurant to have atmosphere I think. A few do it very well but have very distinct personalities. Many don't!

  3. Been there last month for dinner. Opted for a fixed menu. Food was okay - mostly standard Canto resto/take-away fare done well but not excellently, I thought. Menu choices a mish mash of Chinese regional dishes, nothing distinctive. Quite pricey for what one gets. My meal was spoiled by annoying young French waiter telling me, a fully fledged Chinese, that Chinese tea leaves are always fermented (e.g. oolong) and meant to be drank literally "pitch black"; he also didn't want to give me more fresh hot water when I complained that my tea was over-stewed. He also tried to tell me that "other Chinese customers don't have any issues with their tea". Quelle service!


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