This new kid to the high-end Chinese restaurant dining scene in London has not fulfilled its potential yet. Imperial Treasure has a comprehensive list of exciting dishes but it needs to deepen its flavour and wow us with its presentation. The grandeur of the restaurant makes a great first impression, but doesn’t inspire admiration. Service is mostly sharp and professional but inconsistently delivered. It is one to come back later to.
What is the food like?
With Michelin star restaurants in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Singapore, Imperial Treasure looks to carve a space among the growing list of high-end Chinese restaurants in London. The menu is made up of predominantly authentic Cantonese dishes like hot & sour soup, salt & pepper squid, spring roll, char siu (barbecued pork), roast pork belly, braised lobster noodle, steamed fish, Kung Po chicken, lemon chicken and the list goes on.
But Imperial Treasure is not looking for those dishes to earn their star, in addition to the famed crispy and succulent Peking Duck, it offers Chinese delicacies like abalone, bird’s nest, sea cucumber and fish maw. Ingredients that are usually reserved for big Chinese wedding banquets or celebratory dinners. Well, a meal here is supposed to be a celebration after all.
The premium ingredients alone weren’t enough to produce delicious dishes. Most of the dishes on our visit were lacking in depth of flavours. It was also disappointing that there is a general lack of attention to how the dishes were presented. We have been spoiled by artistic and theatrical food presentation in high-end restaurants in London.
It was reassuring to find popular Singapore dishes like chilli crab and crispy fish skin in salted egg yolk on the menu.
How is the drinks selection?
Comprehensive. There are 80 choices of whites and 155 choices of reds from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, USA, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa as well as 2 reds and a Riesling from China. Wine prices ranges from £38 for a bottle of 2017 Vieille Vigne Bruno Cormeraise from Loire Vally in France to £2,778 for a bottle of 1990 Château Cheval Blanc 1er Grand Cru Classé A.
There is a comprehensive selection of champagne, sparkling wine, rosé, dessert wine, sake as well as some very interesting cocktails with a Chinese twist. Experience Purple Empress, a concoction of Konik’s Tail vodka, lemongrass, lychee, pineapple, line and butterfly tea or try an Asian Old Fashioned with Dalmore 15y, Akashi Tai plum sake, snow chrysanthemum tea and orange bitter.
What is the place like?
Grand but uninspiring. Imperial Treasure is housed in a magnificent listed building in a grand hall with intricate gorgeous Palladian style ceiling and columns. The space is majestic with its double height ceiling, dramatic crackled amber-coloured marble bar as well as the large Japanese-style wooden partitions. The partitions created smaller, more intimate spaces for diners. In the evening, the space was lowly lit with a gold or amber accent among mostly dark wood.
But the imposing space was strangely uninspiring. Instead of celebrating the grandeur of the Palladian style, designer Studio Liaigre, the firm left behind by the late Christian Liaigre who designed Hakkasan in London, seems to have been asked to recreate Hakkasan. In trying to do so, they have missed a trick.
There are three separate private dining rooms for party of 8, 12 and 16 hidden upstair.
Who are the patrons?
Suits. Given its locality and grandeur, it is a popular choice to make an impression with stakeholders or clients from abroad.
How was the service?
Mostly sharp and professional. Front of house staff were smartly dressed in suits and ties. Great knowledge of the dishes and fluent with recommendations. Orders were executed promptly. There were also some theatrics where the wagyu beef slices were poached on a portable food trolley in front of the diners before being served in individual portions. Having said that, there are inconsistency on the level of service depending on the staff.
Is it child friendly?
Yes. There is no dedicated children menu but there are plenty of dishes in the extensive menu suitable for sharing with children.
Is it dog friendly?
No. We struggled to justify the premium prices charged given the overall unfulfilling dining experience. The restaurant charge a discretionary 13.5% service charge, instead of the standard 12.5%.
See below for what my dining companions and I indulged in for this review (prices quoted include VAT):
2017 Rully 1er Cru “La Fosse”, Domaine Jean-Baptiste Ponsot
This Burgundy pinot noir from Domaine Jean-Baptiste Ponsot in the Rully appellation has a great bouquet of cherry and raspberry on the nose. It is light and fruity on the palate. Good easy drinking wine and good value. £88
2015 “Quimera” Chaval-Ferrer
A lovely full-bodied Malbec that is surprisingly complex in taste. Striking dark red in colour with strong dried fruits aroma with a hint of chocolate. One for the “order again” list. £122
Marinated Cold Jellyfish with Boiled Pork 凉拌海蜇白肉
A delicate dish with subtle flavours from melt-in-your-mouth succulent marinated pork knuckle contrast by crunchy springy strands of jellyfish. Puzzled as to why it is served with an overly generous portion of strong-flavoured bean paste sauce. It could also do with a more generous amount of jellyfish. £18
Pan-Fried Shredded Lamb Pancake 手撕羊肉脆饼
Crunchy pancake parcels with strong lamb flavour balanced by cumin and light curry flavour. £28
Crispy Fish Skin with Salted Egg Yolk 咸蛋黄脆鱼皮
A naughty treat skillfully made resulting in light crunchy coating of batter over an equally crunchy slice of fish skin. A touch too light on the wholesome flavour of salted egg that makes this dish amazing. £16
Steamed Dim Sum Platter Trio 点心三色拼
One ordinary prawn and pork siu mai with a tiny sprinkle of salmon roe, one equally ordinary king prawn har gau and a green dumpling of edamame with truffle oil. Not sure what’s the premium was for. £9
Salt and Pepper Squid 椒盐鲜鱿
Beautifully deep-fried as batter was fluffy and crunchy while the squid was juicy and tender. Lacking in punch from insufficient salt and pepper. £16
Crispy Ibérico Pork Belly 脆皮黑毛猪烧腩仔
Ultra crunchy thinner than usual crackling combined with juicy succulent meat. Although juicy the meat was lacking in five spice flavour which was supplemented by a dash of mustard. £25
Honey Glazed Ibérico Char Siu Pork 蜜汁黑毛猪叉烧
Decently presented with gorgeously glossy shine. This Chinese BBQ pork was slightly tougher than perfect. It is lacking in depth on the distinctive caramelised sweetness and saltiness of char siu. Personally prefer it to be more charred to bring out the best BBQ flavours. £25
Scottish Blue Lobster – Braised Noodle with Ginger and Spring Onion 苏格兰蓝龙虾姜葱焖面
Fresh and succulent lobster, the flesh was bursting out of the shells. Braised noodle lacking depth of ginger and spring onion flavours to bring out the best of the dish. £14 per 100g
Turbot Steamed with Soya Sauce 清蒸多宝鱼
Professionally served and portioned by the front of house staff. Perfectly cooked as the flesh melted in my mouth. Did found it limited that it has to be steamed in soya sauce, rather than with ginger or mushroom as commonly available in most Chinese restaurants.
Poached Sliced Wagyu Beef 堂灼日本和牛
Amazing slices of beef. It was succulent and tender. Fancifully poached in shabu shabu-style hot pot by your table by the front of house staff. Loved the umami flavoured broth. £98
Vegetable and Tofu
Golden Okra and Lotus Root with Salted Egg Yolk 黄金秋葵莲藕
Not much to look at but it does offer a double crunch, firstly from the batter then from the okra or lotus root. As with the crispy fish skin dish, it lacks depth due to the meagre amount of salted egg yolk in the batter coating. £22
Spinach with Trio-Egg in Superior Broth 金银蛋菠菜
Another classic Chinese dish made by combining blanched spinach with wholesome broth enriched with egg, salted egg and century egg. Decently made with perfectly cooked spinach and generous amount of eggs but could do with less broth. £24
Noodle and Rice
Braised Noodle with Mushroom and Truffle Oil 白松露油松菇焖面
A decent braised noodle with a dash of truffle oil, but nothing to shout about beyond that. £25