The Chinese have historically revered unity in their culture – indeed, the word ‘unity’ (tuán) is incredibly similar to ‘round’ (yuán). Circular tables have always been at the centre of the household. The larger the family, the greater the show of strength, and the bigger the table.
In London’s Imperial Treasure, the St James’s outpost of the multi-Michelin starred Imperial Treasure Group, I’m sat at the biggest table in the house. The giant circular structure must be nearly three metres across with a huge lazy susan ring set inside. It is the centrepiece to the restaurant’s largest private dining room – one of three which can be interconnected.
Of course, beyond a symbol of unity and power, a big round table is good for two other things: sharing company and sharing food.
Not that you’ll necessarily want to do the latter here. Although you’re more than welcome to enjoy a traditional Chinese feast where everyone tucks in and all dishes are fair game (including the now legendary £100 peking duck), you can opt for a more fine-dining approach.
As well as the new private rooms, Imperial Treasure has also launched a new set of tasting menus including wine-pairing upgrades, ranging from £68pp up to £198pp. If you’re going all out, the Signature set menu is a culinary tour de force.
You kick off with caviar and feather-light egg white served gracefully in a martini glass. Next is a baked crab shell stuffed with crab meat, cheese and onion – like the world’s poshest Findus pancake. Then a braised Hokkaido sea cucumber – a delicacy that you have to try at least once in your life, even if you vow never to again.
For meat lovers, a pan-fried wagyu roll is next. And if you have room left (you’ll have to make it), the shrimp broth is served with addictively crispy rice.
The wine pairing is exceptional with a few choice labels included from the mighty Domaine de Chevalier. The great Bordeaux estate has 27 labels, seven chateaux and 100,000 hectares of vineyards across the Graves and Sauternes regions. It lends some of its finest wines to partner with the kitchen’s mightiest morsels.
It’s thanks to menus like these that Imperial Treasure has made it into the 100 Top Chinese Restaurants in the World, as compiled by critic Ch’ng Poh Tiong. It’s only one of two in London – and three in the whole of Europe. High praise indeed from a critic who has been there, eaten that. Now it’s your turn.
For more information, see imperialtreasure.com