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Min Jiang at The Royal Garden Hotel:
The Royal Garden Hotel is a glamorous place on the edge of Kensington Gardens. I’ve been there for drinks but never made my way to the tenth-floor Chinese restaurant, Min Jiang, open now for eight years. There is something quite exciting about taking the elevator up – and something even more exciting and luxurious about sitting looking out of the picture windows at views which stretch to the Shard and the London Eye. I was fascinated. Most of the ‘restaurants with a view’ I know are in or around the City. Here, looking across Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, the view is quite different and considerably less cluttered. On a clear evening you really can see for miles. I could have sat there for hours.
But, a Chinese New Year feast takes time. And, the offering from Min Jiang, perhaps the most authentic I’ve tried to date, starts with the traditional Yu Sheng Salad, a concoction of 23 ingredients, all combined in a particular way.
We were guided through the process step by step. First lime was squeezed onto the yellowfin tuna and we were all wished good fortune and good luck. After mixing the fish in with the salad, the mixture was topped with ground white pepper, cinnamon and five spice for fortune and prosperity. I was feeling VERY good at this stage. Next, mashed peanuts were poured onto the salad to bless our homes, followed by vegetable oil and plum sauce for a smooth path in the year to come and sweet returns. Finally, Pok Chui crackers were sprinkled over the mixture – representing gold coins.
And, we all set to with chopsticks to ‘toss the salad’. The higher you can toss the mixture, the better fortune you should receive in the coming year.
It tasted surprisingly good, washed down with a glass of Cher et Tendre Vouvray Sec – a delicious and light white wine that we all enjoyed.
Next, a deliciously comforting bowl of eight treasure supreme soup. Apart from being Min Jang’s eighth year anniversary this year, the number eight is a lucky number in the Chinese culture and eight treasure supreme soup is a traditional dish served for new year celebrations to promote good health and a long life.
My favourite dish of the evening was the stir fried pacific clams with asparagus and steamed XO scallop dumplings. I loved the plump dumplings with a delicate wrapper. By this stage, we hadn’t even got to the main courses.
Our crispy fried silver pomfret came ‘whole’. It’s considered bad luck in Chinese culture to fillet a fish or remove the head and tail in order to serve it. And, it was utterly delicious with the crisp skin contrasting beautifully with the soft, moist flesh.
The other main dishes were Abalone fried rice with crispy anchovies, some rather beautiful crabmeat and egg white golden cups, steamed dried oyster with Chinese leaf in sea moss sauce
and a simple but perfectly cooked dish of roasted chicken in yellow bean and dried orange peel sauce.
A glass or two of Rapaura Springs Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013 made a perfect fruity accompaniment to this delicious selection of dishes.
Finally, we finished the meal with Nian Gao – Chinese year cake, a traditional pan-fried cake made with sweet potato and taro. Yet again a dish to bring us all good luck in the year ahead. Served with a glass of Muscat de Beaume de Venise, Domaine de Fenouillette it made a fitting end to a great feast.
We learnt that Chinese New Year lasts for the entire lunar cycle of two weeks. During that period, Chinese families go from house to house, dining with friends and family to celebrate the New Year. All of this starts on New Years Eve with a ‘reunion dinner’ when big Chinese families of several generations come together for the most important meal of the year. Chinese New Year is a time for families to be together. This year, Chinese New Year starts on Sunday, February 7 which is New Year’s Eve.
Min Jiang will be offering their New Year’s Menu for £98 per person. It’s a feast and a celebration, a way to enjoy some of the traditions that make Chinese New Year special. The delicious menu has a number of dishes that are rarely available in London, even during the New Year Celebrations. And the setting is perfect – with stunning views across London’s skyline. So why not welcome in the Year of the Red Fire Monkey at Min Jiang
ROYAL GARDEN HOTEL
2 – 24 KENSINGTON HIGH STREET
LONDON W8 4PT
T. 020 7361 1988