Sunday, 21 February 2010

Kai Mayfair review (revisit) - reasonably priced set lunch with excellent service

Address: 65 South Audley Street, London W1K 2QU
Tel: 020 7493 8988
Nearest Tube station: Hyde Park Corner, Green Park,
Marble Arch, Bond Street

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £30 pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: ***
Service: *****
Ambience: ****
Suitable for: those looking for excellent service
and decent Chinese cuisine
After a fantastic experience at the Michelin-starred Kai the last time round, Wife and I thought it'll be a good idea to have a simple lunch over there again on the first day of the Chinese New Year.

To make sure we get a table, we called two weeks in advance and was pleasantly surprised that Kai still offers its £19 set lunch despite the Chinese New Year - I would expect to be charged a premium to dine in a Chinese resturant then, that was what many restaurants in Chinatown did.


We were a good 40min late for our lunch but Michael, the head staff when we were there, quickly held open the door for us and welcome us with a smile. When told that I was late for my reservation, he smiled warmly,"No worries at all, Sir. We have got two tables for you, one at the front and the other at the back. I would recommend the one up front, that's the better seat." I took his word for it.

Unlike the many Chinese restaurants in London, you could hardly tell that it was the Chinese New Year - there was no lion dances (like the one at Bayswater's Kam Tong two years back) and no noticeable decoration other than a single huge lantern in the waiting area. In fact, the only hint were the bright red sweaters worn by two other couples sitting on two seperate tables. I must admit that it takes quite a bit of self assurance for a guy to go around in a bright red sweater, Chinese New Year or not. I, for one, could never pull that off.


The starter, 'A Little Something From The Chef' turned out to be salad sprinkled with freshly cut fruits and cashewnuts. It was meant to cleanse our palate but we couldn't help but noticed that unlike mine, Wife's portion was totally devoid of strawberries.


The Szechuan miso soup arrived in a small cup, which was generously filled with mushrooms cut into cubes and a single red date. As the cup was scathing hot when it first arrived, we asked a waitress for a spoon but was told that we were supposed to hold the cup and drink it directly. I was a bit taken aback by that really but perhaps we didn't make ourselves clear. Another staff quickly brought us two metal spoons when it requested it the second time round. "We did tell the Chef that it was too hot but still!" he jested.


The tiger prawns, which was cooked in milk and butter crumble, though a bit underwhelming tasted quite fine. It reminded me of the fried cereal prawns (mai pian xia) that is a popular street fare dish back home.


The braised chicken breasts, cooked in ginger broth, had an interesting texture. It had a tender yet bland consistency, quite unlike the chicken that I had come across. There was something amiss about the dish that I just couldn't place my finger on. But I thought that the dish was saved by the gingery gravy and the accompanying bamboo stalks.


Even though the lunch set comes with a fruit sorbet - below, we specially ordered the Peranakan Mango Cake (£9) - above as it was really during when we first had it. For some reason, it wasn't as good this time round - the cake was overdone and crumbled when I tried to cut it, there was also no sago in the gunung melaka syrup unlike the previous time.


Was Kai still as good? Perhaps we had subconsciously raised the bar after our first visit that we couldn't help but felt a bit let down on our second. However, at £19 per person (excluding service charge and beverages), Kai's set lunch was still reasonably priced. But one thing's for sure, Kai's service was still as excellent as ever.

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Wild Boar said...

The problem with the chicken breast was that they didn't provide plain rice to go with it! lol

From where I'm sitting, it doesn't strike me as being very Malaysian nor being particularly good eats.

C K said...

@Wild Boar,
lol, actually, I neglected to mention that the meal comes not only with miso soup but with rice as well. I'm not too sure but it sure didn't taste very much like chicken.

hotels in Mayfair said...

I can't believe I say this but this food doesn't seem delicious to me. While looking through your blog I started thinking that every food looks amazing when you make a good shot of it. But nope. What is bodering me the most is the size of the portions. I love the big plates with Chinese meals.

Kay @ Chopstix2Steaknives said...

How funny! I just chanced upon this review which I missed when I went skiing! I didn't know that they do £19 lunch as I went for the £27 one and my post is coming up in a few days. Interestingly our dishes were different but I am impress by them

London Chow said...

Will be looking out for your review. I'm certain that Kai has revised their set lunch since my last visit, which was quite some time back.