The Royal China group’s first venture on this Marylebone site was a luxuriously minimalist Japanese restaurant called Michiaki. It didn’t last.
Now they’ve turned it – essentially unchanged – into a sort of club-class Royal China. Many readers will know that Royal China is widely regarded as the capital’s leading Chinese chain, so you might have thought this would be a winning formula: superior cooking served, for once, minus the group’s love-it-or-hate-it ’70s-disco decor. Which all goes to show that, as Bernard Shaw put it: You Never Can Tell.
What a disaster! How can you screw up seaweed? Admittedly a cliched choice it is, however, usually a pretty safe one. Not here. The cloying sweetness with which that dish was prepared, was to be a Leitmotif of the entire meal. We sampled extensively from both the dim sum menu and from the a la carte. Results from the former seemed marginally superior, with seafood dishes (we ate next to a fair sized tank of lobsters) turning out to be the best bets. But, without subjecting you to a blow-by-blow account, suffice is to say that what followed was, in large part, pretty ghastly. In the end, we just gave up, and picked at a few bits before the dishes were taken away uneaten.
On the plus side, the setting is comfortable, and the friendly service was in many respects exemplary (although, lacking a pad, the waiter inevitably got part of our order wrong). In the time-honoured tradition of disastrous Chinese meals, we couldn’t help wondering if results might have been better if we spoke the lingo: the large tables full of oriental folk seemed to be having a much better time than we were.