I had heard whispers through the grapevine of a secret Chinese restaurant in South Kensington for a few years now and recently, I confirmed its existence. There’s no information online….in English. It turns out that there’s been a bit of chatter online in Chinese and it was my food-loving Chinese colleague who found it and it’s thanks to him that we had a chance to eat there. He had managed to gather 16 of us to try it one night. Its name is Guyuan, which translates to ‘old garden’ or ‘old paradise’.
As for location, I’ll only say that it’s not far from South Kensington tube station! The secret restaurant is run by a restaurateur whose restaurants serve very different cuisines and this is clearly a labour of love to him. There’s only one room that holds a massive round table with a massive lazy susan in the middle. It’s beautifully decorated and reminded us of the private dining rooms we were privileged to try in Beijing. It was difficult to believe that we were still in London!
The meal was a proper feast, with 8 cold starters, 11 hot dishes and fruit afterwards! The food mostly hailed from the south-east of China with many Shanghainese specialities and while I certainly wasn’t familiar with most of the dishes we had, all were delicious. The following were the highlights of the meal for me.
Braised kaofu with cloud ear fungus, lily flowers and peanuts (cold)
Bean curd sheet salad (cold)
Fried quail with chestnuts (with a little zing from the addition of Sichuan peppercorns)
West Lake fish (lots of vinegar and ginger!)
‘Chicken leg mushrooms’ in oyster sauce
Scallops and asparagus in XO sauce
Pork and cabbage dumplings
If you’re interested, you can find their phone number at the bottom of this page. You’ll need a minimum of 10 people and will need to book at least two weeks in advance – they’re very popular. We left the menu up to them (after specifying a cost for food per head (£30pp)) though you can request your favourite dishes. I suspect it’s easiest to book if you have a Chinese speaker to help with booking; otherwise, good luck!
All the dishes we had that night can be seen in this Flickr photoset.