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At last, a good, reasonably-priced all-rounder, in the heart of Westminster – this new oriental (a relaunch of Atami, which was Japanese) may well become the linchpin of what’s still a very under-powered local dining scene.
Like its buzzier neighbour Pimlico, Westminster – not the City thereof, but the smaller area between Victoria Street and the river – remains something of a restaurant black hole. When it was all grey back offices of state and council flats (no disrespect), that was easy enough to understand, but the last decade has seen quite a transformation. There’s the shiny new Home Office. Lots of sites (even a former petrol station) are being turned into bijoux pieds-Ã -terre. And, hey, the area now even houses the worldwide HQ of Burberry.
But still no restaurants. Qualification. The occasional restaurant of some note, such as the Cinnamon Club or Quirinale, but they’re priced more for the lobbying market than for the ever more numerous local workers and residents who want a decent local lunch or dinner without breaking the bank. It seemed that the arrival of Claudio Pulze’s Osteria dell’Angolo might perk things up, but it’s just so dull. And Atami – a minimalist Japanese restaurant – was a good place, but just a bit too smart and pricey to be a ‘drop-in’.
Well, the recession has its advantages. Atami’s proprietors have realised there’s a gaping hole in the market for a good, reasonably-priced all-rounder, and they’ve turned it into the self-explanatory Made In China. From a menu point of view, this is now as bog-standard a restaurant as the name suggests, and it offers all those dishes you know and love, with the occasional pan-Asian twist. Crab and sweetcorn soup? Peking duck? Singapore noodles? All present and correct, and all done well on our visit.
A nice feature is that dim sum is available at all times. We kicked off with a generous 8-piece steamed basket (£9), which – like everything else – was straight-down-the-line very competent. The service was likewise. And, with three glasses of wine, the total bill was less than £60 for two all-in.
If there is a reservation, it is that the elegant former Atami premises are – oddly – just a bit too stately and well-spaced to be jolly. As the crowds come, though – which they surely should – this is a problem which may well resolve itself naturally.