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Saturday 15 September 2018

Mei Ume - Finest Japanese and Chinese Cooking All Under One Fabulous Roof!

Name: Mei Ume 

Where: Four Seasons Hotel, 10 Trinity Square, London, EC3N 4AJ, http://meiume.com/

Cost: There is a tasting menu available at £75 per person, with the option of matching wine flight for £39 or £75 for classic French wines. 

About: The Four Seasons Hotel at Trinity Square opened in 2017, in the beautifully restored former headquarters of the Port of London. A grade II listed historic building, it has a magnificent view overlooking the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and beyond. 

The hotel has two restaurants on the ground floor, the Michelin-starred French restaurant La Dame de Pic, and next to it, Mei Ume which is the first restaurant I have come across in London aiming to offer a blend of Chinese and Japanese fine dining - think Hakkasan and Sake no Hana all in one.  In fact Mei Ume's Sushi Chef Mun Seok Choi, South Korean born, trained at Zuma and Sake no Hana itself.

Mei Ume's Head Chef Tony Truong learned to cook Cantonese food in China's Guangzhou province, and has been in the UK for 30 years. His last job before moving to Mei Ume was as Head Chef at Royal China, where he worked for 17 years.

The restaurant is gorgeously decorated - a large screen at the entrance made with enamel paint on glass depicts the plum blossoms which give the restaurant its name (Mei and Ume being the Chinese and Japanese words for plum blossom respectively).

There is a long and glamorous bar, while the main dining room is dominated by two stunning red lacquer frames holding a guilded triptych of Chinese life as focal points. The ceiling is amazingly high, with gorgeously uplit Corinthian columns supporting it. Dimly lit, it is a soothingly chic place to spend a few hours.

What We Ate: Rather than the tasting menu, we opted to go a la carte. Rock shrimp tempura (£14) was succulent, served with a spicy mayo that packed a punch. The batter was crisp and well seasoned, although I prefer my tempura batter to be a tad lighter.

Salt and pepper squid with lemon leaves and shallots (£13) was also crispy and delectable.

Next came a Sushi Moriawase (Chef's selection) - nine pieces (£34) of expertly made and dainty nigiri sushi, including mackerel, eel, squid, octopus, scallop, yellowtail, salmon and tuna.  The rice was perfectly seasoned, the fish tasted super fresh and was meltingly tender - the nigiri showed real skills of the sushi chef.

The uramaki (inside out) roll of Alaskan and Californian crab (£14) was very good, and I  could only admire the very fine layer of perfectly cooked sushi rice on the exterior, which I know from bitter experience is mighty tricky to achieve.

But the best was still to come. The wasabi king prawns (£28) were outstanding, creamy but spicy, and encrusted with orange tobiko (flying fish roe). A real winner.

The lamb shank (£28) braised in a Sichuan spicy broth was magnificent, with chillies, Sichuanese peppercorn, cinnamon and five spice, the meat fell off the bone, was succulent and extremely tender.

Equally good was the San Pei Chicken with Thai basil and chilli, served in a seasoned toban (£24).

To accompany, we had some crunchy choi sum, wok-fried with garlic (£10), and stir-fried glass noodles with duck meat (£12.50) that had a fantastic wok-breath. They were both excellent.

And just when we thought we were too full for anything else, along came the dessert menu which was too tempting to resist. The chocolate moelleux was filled with runny dark chocolate, and paired particularly well with a slightly bitter matcha ice cream (£9).

Better still was the yuzu creme brûlée with lychee granita (£9). The yuzu creme was layered over a base of raspberry jelly, and the combination (aromatic yuzu and raspberries) was surprisingly effective.

What We Drank: Cocktails are priced at £16. There is an extensive range of sakes, and wines by the glass or carafe.  For bottles, the entry level white is a German Auxerrois (£39), while the red is a French Corbieres (£35). For those wanting to splurge, there are first growth Bordeaux such as the Romanee-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru £3200.

We started with glass of Delamotte Brut NV (£16), which was crisp and refreshing.

With the meal, we had a glass of Chablis Premiere Cru Cote de Lechet, Domaine Bernard Defaix 2016 (£16) - wonderfully aromatic with elderflower and greengage, and a long, complex finish, complimenting the wasabi prawns.

A glass of Langhe, Azienda Agricola 499 2015 from Piemonte (£12) was medium bodied with cherry and vanilla notes that were a good match with the lamb.  

Likes: Stunning setting, great Sichuanese lamb shank, wasabi prawns and yuzu creme brûlée.  The sushi was also expertly made. Friendly, well informed service though a tad erratic, see below. 

Dislikes: Our hot stone rice bibimbap of sea urchin and scallops did not show up despite being ordered. I am still craving that dish!

Verdict: Fine-dining Chinese and Japanese food in the heart of the ancient City of London. In stunning surroundings, Mei Ume is a real treat for the eye and palate. Very highly recommended.

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