Saturday, 9 January 2010

Four Seasons (Gerrard Street) review - behold the legendary roast duck mentioned in London guidebooks

Four+Seasons+review+London++Chinatown+Gerrard+Street+Chinese+food+London+ChowAddress: 12 Gerrard Street, London W1D 5PR
Tel: 020 7494 0870
Nearest Tube station: Leicester Square

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: ****
Service: *
Ambience: **
Suitable for: people obsessed for the roast duck unique to this part of the world

One would be inundated with choices along London Chinatown's Gerrard Street. Everything along that street was about food - provision stores, restaurants, eateries, dubious looking pubs and more restaurants. Even the HSBC branch and the lone casino along the street looked oddly out of place.

Four Seasons, which was located somewhere along the middle of the stretch had long being hailed by London guide books as the must-eat in London. As I walked down the street like I had done countless times before, I noticed that it was easy to walk pass Four Seasons without realising it - similar restaurants with rows of roast ducks hanging in the front displayed didn't help matters.

Even with seating spaces on three floors, Four Seasons was always packed regardless of when you arrived. As far as I know, it, like many of the Chinese restaurants in the vicinity, didn't accept reservations. Basically, you just turned up and hoped for the best. Thankfully, the turnaround time was relatively short. If you weren't part of the queue that was standing in the open, the wait time rarely exceeded half an hour.

Four Seasons was of course renowned for its roast duck. Not the crispy Peking duck with its dried skin and hard flesh but the good old roast duck prepared over an open fire. Frankly, I had no idea why anyone would even go for the Peking duck. I would prefer a slice of juicy and tender roast duck with glistering fat anytime.

It was said that Chef Heston of Fat Duck, who specialised in molecular gastronomy, failed to recreate the famed London roast duck. The reason, he concluded, was because all those ducks came from one particular farm in the UK and no other duck would do. Something to do with the high fat content apparently.

Anyway, we developed a sudden craving for roast duck one wintry afternoon and went down to Four Seasons that very day for a late lunch. It was a bit quieter but even then we stood in line for around 20min before being shown to our seats on the first floor. We realised immediately that being seated in the basement or the first floor was way better than the ground floor, the last thing I wanted was to have my meal with hungry people staring down at me and willing me to ask for the bill and clear the table.

We were hungry when the menu was tossed onto our table (you don't go to a Chinatown restaurant for its services) and quickly ordered a three combination (san-pin) of roast duck, roast pork and charsiew, wanton noodles, and beancurd with seafood.

Four+Seasons+review+London+Chinatown+Gerrard+Street+Chinese+food+Roast+Duck+London+ChowThe three combination (san-pin) of roast pork, charsiew and of course, the famed roast duck

The san-pin (£9) arrived first, which was surprisingly substantial and would easily satisfy two light eaters. What we liked about the san-pin was its roast pork and charsiew were relatively lean yet retain their flavour. The accompanying sauce could be less salty but it did brought out the full depth of the dish.

The main item in the dish was of course the roast duck. Thickly sliced duck with a thick layer of fat that literally melted in your mouth would be an apt description. To get the full taste of it, refrain from dipping it in the chilli oil that comes with it. In fact, it would be almost a sin to remove the skin even for the health conscious. The roast duck itself would probably warrant the time spent queuing.

Wanton noodles - a bit too bland

The wanton noodles (£7) was an afterthought really. The bland noodles was a disappointment although Four Seasons were generous with their wanton (dumplings). Each wanton was a mouthful and I suspect there was more 'flour fillers' than prawns and pork.

Seafood with beancurd - generous portion of seafood with soft beancurd

Seafood with beancurd (£9.80) turned out to be more soupy than we thought as we were expecting a more starchy concoction. Even for its price, the amount of seafood (jumbo prawns, squid and fish slices) piled into it was substantial. There was even small morsels of fishballs stuffed into the large triangularly sliced beancurd. Again, that dish alone could easily feed two light eaters.

We have clearly over-ordered but somehow managed to finished everything towards the end (we had to skip dinner afterwards). Even as we stumbled out into the open with the cold winds blowing onto our faces, we were already making mental notes of getting our roast duck at Four Seasons for our Chinese New Year dinner.

Four Seasons Chinese on Urbanspoon

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Kavey said...

Hmmm I adore good moist roast duck ... will try the Four Seasons offering.

C K said...

Oh, please do. I'm not sure about the other dishes at Four Seasons though. Let me know if you like it.

Wild Boar said...

Is the duck the same at both chains? I've heard the Gerrard Street one isn't as good as Bayswater's but I've only been to the latter.

The London Foodie said...

That duck looks sooo good! I have never been to this place, but am very tempted now. Thanks.

Luiz @ The London Foodie

Anonymous said...

I am going to the Four Seasons for Chinese New Year on Sunday 14th and I will DEFINATELY be having the duck :) It will be my first time to the 4 Seasons so will you all know what I thought soon!
Joe & Hannah from Enfield North London

C K said...

Believe me, it's all in the fats. :)

@Joe and Hannah,
Hey, thanks for stopping by! I'm not sure whether they'll ask, but if you are given the option, go for the boneless duck. Ignore your diet, please swallow the fatty skin whole, that's the whole point. :)

Let me know what you think of it. Cheers!

Halfy said...

Good review, as an aside I think you may want to correct your comments about 'Peking' duck. Your referring to crispy duck, which is a Hong Kong/Guandong method of oohing duck and is ubiquitous in London Chinese restaurants.

Peking duck on the other hand is a roast duck and if done properly (rather than a Cantonese chef playing at it) is wonderful and includes - moist duck with skin on and off, skin separately, soup made from the carcass and a wide range of accompaniments.

If you get an opportunity give it a go