Few restaurants arrive with a pedigree like Gouqi. Few anythings arrive with a pedigree like Gouqi. Imagine a tennis racket constructed by Roger Federer or a drama class run by Daniel Day-Lewis. These be the levels we’re talking about here.
For Gouqi is the new restaurant from Chef Tong Chee Hwee – formerly executive head chef at the Hakkasan Group. Over his 18 year tenure, Chef Tong picked up Michelin stars like he was playing a live action game of Super Mario, notching up seven in total. Yauatcha, HKK and Hakkasan itself were under his command.
Chef Tong departed the Hakkasan Group but thankfully his absence from the London dining scene has only been temporary. For this year the big man is back with Gouqi in St James, a Chinese fine dining restaurant par excellence. (Hey, if it ain’t broke…)
From the moment you walk through the door, it’s clear Gouqi isn’t messing around. The interior screams class – no, wait, scream is the wrong verb here. The interior purrs class, all dark colours and shiny surfaces, it’s as sleek and sharp as an expensive suit.
There are even special tables curtained off from the rest of the restaurant, the fine dining equivalent of business class. What’s the equivalent of first class? That would be the two private dining rooms, the Crimson and the Ruby – seating eight and 10 respectively or 20 combined. The rooms are interconnected so you can hire each one individually or splash out on both, provided you have enough friends.
What to order?
So what of the menu? Oh, it’s very, very good. Those who have visited Hakkasan will find themselves on familiar ground here. Chef Tong plays the hits but when the setlist is such a banger, how can his audience complain? The audience does not. They smile in drowsy bliss and call for an encore.
The steamed royal dim sum platter offers eight types of dim sum – eight! – whose bright colours only add to the sense of excitement, like you've opened a little treasure box. You may need to order a box each as I guarantee once you’ve tasted one, regardless of the filling, you won’t want to share it.
But then there are star turns all over the menu. Truffle roasted duck and honey-glazed Iberico char siu with salted egg yolk will cause your eyes to close in pleasure. Chargrilled silver cod is a delight; tenderloin beef with black pepper sauce will inspire envy within any vegetarians on your table. There are no misses here: only the good and the great.
I must mention the Peking duck legendary with Oscietra caviar. We didn’t try it but seemingly every other table did – it’s wheeled over on a trolley and sliced up in front of you. If it tastes half as good as it looks then you’ll be in for something special. Word of warning, though: you’ll need to give 24-hours notice if you plan to order it.
Keep yourself well lubricated by sampling a diverse wine list – there are pairings if you opt for the tasting menu. The cocktails are worth exploring, too. Grouped by flavour, each section has its own spirt animal (Black Tortoise of the North) and tasting notes. My Lushu (Toku Sake, White Miso, Bitters) went down like alcoholic milk, very soothing to the soul.
What’s the damage?
Fairly extensive, it must be said. The tasting menu is £118pp, with paired wines an extra £98pp on top of that. Fancy the duck? That will be £230. The cheapest bottle of wine is £58.
There are no cheat codes here: if you visit Gouqi, you best be prepared to spend. You’ll enjoy a hell of a meal for your money but you’ll pay a hell of a lot of money for your meal.
Anything else to note?
You pronounce it ‘goji’ – like the berry. Goji berries are tiny and bright red and supposedly very good for you. Gouqi mightn't be very good for you but it's certainly very good and for a restaurant that's the most important thing.
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25-34 Cockspur Street, St. James's, London, SW1Y 5BN; Gouqi