One of my closest friends has been in London this past year and she very kindly took me for lunch at Min Jiang on my birthday a couple weeks back. With its location on the 10th floor of the Royal Garden Hotel (a hotel whose interior is certainly much nicer than its blocky grey exterior), its views over Kensington Gardens were brilliant; if only the weather that day matched it.
I’d never felt so much like a tai tai (think lady who lunches) that afternoon (leaving work for a long lunch at a swanky restaurant will do that). And as you’d expect in a restaurant like Min Jiang, service was impeccable throughout our lunch.
For our meal, we chose a selection of dim sum and some noodles for the whole birthday thing (their length represents longevity) – their famous Beijing duck would have to wait for another visit. Our first dish, their signature xiao long bao, was excellent. Thin skins gave way to lots of meaty broth and a lovely pork filling; we think they’d coated the base of the steamer with something so that the dumplings wouldn’t stick. With a dab or two of vinegar and ginger, these went down quickly.
The deep-fried yam croquette with seafood was their delicate version of wu kok. These very dainty bites were delicious but I still think I prefer the more usual robust flavours of a meat filling.
Har kow had a good prawn filling but the skins were ever so slightly mushy. Roxanne taught me to look out for a good springiness to the har kow wrappers.
The stir-fried turnip cake with XO sauce had a surprising amount of heat and was utterly delicious. Soft chunks of steamed daikon cake had been fried together with the XO sauce and the addition of beansprouts added a great crunchy contrast.
While we were eating, a waiter snuck up behind us, announced the Sichuan dan dan noodles with minced pork and then deposited this on our table.
You could have heard a pin drop.
He then proceeded to giggle at our disbelief and announced that he’d already plated up our noodles and then placed these in front of us. Oh, ha!
They were very good – more of a light, nutty, sesame laced dan dan noodle dish than the original spicy, oily Sichuan version. They went down easily and were the perfect birthday noodles.
Of course we saved room for dessert. A proper lady who lunches would probably be watching her figure but well, we were just play-acting that day. My fresh mango cream with sago pearls and pomelo was just sweet enough and certainly more mangoey than any mango/pomelo dessert I’ve had in the past. My only quibble would be that more pomelo was needed.
Roxanne’s fried and steamed black sesame paste dumplings with black sesame ice cream came looking incredibly delicate. Everything was incredibly full of black sesame flavour. Of the two dumplings, the classic steamed dumpling was much better than fried. I loved the steamed dumpling’s soft mochi like texture and its lava-hot black sesame filling.
Was it the best dim sum in London? No, I don’t think so though it was very good and very refined but, gosh, that refinement came with a hefty price. One observation: the strength of the more northern dishes (xiao long bao, dan dan noodles) did lead us to suspect a more northern hand in the kitchen rather than a pure Cantonese one – nothing wrong with that. Overall, our meal there was great – hooray for lovely company and fantastic service and feeling like a tai tai for one afternoon. Thanks very much, Roxanne!
Royal Garden Hotel
2-24 Kensington High Street
London W8 4PT