CHINA TANG

by Charlie Tee

MINE's food connoisseur Charlie Tee takes celebrity TV chef Chris Barber for a spin at China Tang to see if years down the line this famous joint is still worth fussing over


When the late Sir David Tang’s restaurant first opened, it was famed for serving some decent Cantonese fayre at eye-wateringly high prices, in some pretty mega surroundings.  Times have changed.  The dim sum here is very reasonably priced, certainly when taking into account it's high quality and top service that comes with it.  With dim sum having become so ubiquitous over the past few years, it’s a real treat to taste it in such a great 1930’s China style bar.  We order well, with the xiao long bao or Shanghai-style soup dumplings and steamed pork buns being the standout dishes and a perfect lead up to our main event in the dining room next door.

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The Peking duck is the number one reason to visit China Tang.  The table-side carving ceremony, aside from being perfect fodder for my guest’s 140k Instagram followers (@chrisbaber), really is something special and showcases the deft surgical precision of the waiters.  Once whipped from the carcass (which returns to the kitchen for preparation number two) the meat is tender, aromatic and intensely savoury, while the skin is like a sugared glass: opposites do attract.

I met ‘Baber Flavour’ a year ago and we got on straight away; he is a young chef with an unmissable passion for all things food and cooking.  Though not formally trained, he won the BBC’s ‘Yes Chef’ programme, where top Indian Chef Atul Kochar gave him the opportunity to move to London for a stage at his Berkeley Square restaurant ‘Benares’.  Since then, Chris has really embraced all that London life has to offer a young food-mad chef and alongside working for brands such as Nespresso, Barilla, Tilda and Quaker Oats, where he was the face of the brand (helps that he clearly hangs out in the gym when he’s not in the kitchen) and has more recently landed a job as the chef on Blue Peter.

 

Duck deux arrived, flanked by a whole steamed bass, a decadent barbeque pork dish that brought back memories for me of the pork I used to enjoy when I lived on Hong Kong Island, and an outstanding dish of aubergine hotpot.  Aubergine loves having time spent in its preparation, as we see in many different cuisines; the Japanese nasu dengaku and Levantine moutabal are regular orders for me.  Now this Cantonese hotpot can join them in my library of comfort foods.

Chris and I discussed the relationship between diet and a healthy lifestyle for both adults and kids, both of us doffing our hats at the efforts of our more well-known contemporaries and elders, and were in agreement that although there are some great initiatives in this country, we can always do more.  This is something that Chris hopes to build upon using his profile with brands and leveraging his new position at Blue Peter.  With such a buzzing personality and keenness to teach others to be able to cook for themselves, Chris is full of ideas.  From the Friday night ‘fakeaway’ (genius) to what to eat in preparation for the London Marathon (a VT he has recently filmed for Saturday Kitchen), this guy will be all over our screens soon, I have no doubt.

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Back to the food.  While China Tang is a perfect place to go to relive the classic Cantonese dishes that most of us know and love from years ago, we were both so well fed that we decided to forego pudding and stick to coffee.  It does exactly what it says on the ‘tin’; much like the Dorchester itself it is truly fabulous in a way that nobody else can quite repeat! Two thousand percent worth the visit.