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Friday 12 April 2019

Mei Ume - The Cherry Blossom Menu 2019 Reviewed

Where: Four Seasons Hotel, 10 Trinity Square, London, EC3N 4AJ

Cost: The 2019 Cherry Blossom menu is available for lunch and dinner until the 22nd April (although many of the dishes are also on the permanent a la carte menu). The menu is not set and items are priced individually, and includes a special seasonal Cherry Blossom cocktail at £12.50, starters from £16 to £21, main courses from £14.50 to £34, and desserts at £9. 

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.  We loved the Chinese-Japanese restaurant Mei Ume on our first visit (read the review here), and were keen to return to try their latest Sakura menu.

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: From the starters menu, we chose the seared tuna with spinach salad in a sesame-rich Japanese wapo dressing (£18). This was beautifully presented, and tasted fresh and light.

Yellowtail carpaccio with ponzu sauce and micro-coriander was refreshingly citric, with wafer thin slices of fish, lifted by a touch of luxury in the form of black truffle (£19).

Next up were some deliciously meaty king prawns served tempura-style with a creamy spicy mayo (£24).

The Mei Ume dragon roll, topped with gold leaf, was light and well-made, with its combination of unagi (eel), Alaskan crab and avocado (£21). We loved the golden bling.

From the main course menu, we chose slow-braised Dongpo pork belly (£24) with Chinese herbs and broccoli. This classic of Chinese cooking from the Hangzhou region, which we could not resist from the regular menu, had perfectly tender pork belly formed into an elegant pyramid with a glossy reduction of Shaoxing wine, ginger, sugar and soy sauce and an intense aroma of star anise.

The grilled miso Chilean seabass served on a tea grill, was buttery and sweet (£34) though a tad dry.

To accompany, a portion of prawn and scallop fried rice with XO sauce (£16) was one of the highlights of our dinner.

For dessert, from the Cherry Blossom menu we had the snowflake matcha cake with vanilla ice cream (£9) - sadly the matcha cakes were disappointing, with little or no discernible flavour or texture.

Marginally better was the chocolate crunch cake, with a black sesame mousse and Valrhona chocolate sorbet (£9). Similar to an opera cake, this was oddly lacking in sweetness and interest.

What We Drank: There is an extensive range of sakes, and wines by the glass or carafe.  For bottles, the entry level white is a Picpoul de Pinet (£38), while the red is a Corbieres (£35).

The special seasonal Cherry Blossom cocktail (£12.50) was a delicious blend of Japanese Roku gin, with its unique blend of six botanicals including yuzu peel, alongside yuzu juice, ginger, cactus, chilli syrup and refreshing Italian Rinomato aperitif, finished with a splash of sparkling sake. This was aromatic and off-dry, with the sweetness balanced by chilli heat and bitterness with a good hit of alcohol. It was fantastic.

With the main courses, we shared a bottle of Tourraine Chenonceux, La Voute 2017, from Domain Joel Delaunay (£50).  A Sauvignon Blanc, this was about as different from a New Zealand Sauvignon as it is possible to imagine, with rich, luscious aromas of white flowers, peach and tropical fruit.

With dessert, we had a refreshing glass of sparkling Mio sake (£29 for 300 ml). 

Likes: Friendly, helpful service. The fried rice with XO sauce plus the Dongpo pork belly were both lovely, and the wines and cocktails were well chosen and interesting. 

Dislikes: Desserts were a real let-down. 

Verdict: Mei Ume is a unique restaurant serving both fine-dining Chinese and Japanese cooking under one roof. We love the gorgeous setting within the Four Season Ten Trinity Square, the food and friendly service. Recommended.

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