London - Best Chinese-style roast duck in Queensway, Bayswater?
Since the early 70s, many Singaporeans, Malaysians & Hongkongers come to London to seek out what they termed as "the best roast duck in the world". This was also chronicled by Singapore-born author, Tan Kok Seng, in volume 3 of his autobiographical trilogy which comprised "Son of Singapore" (1972), "Man of Malaysia" (1974) and "Eye on the World" (1983). He talked about this London restaurant which served the best-tasting roast duck in the world - I read that book in 1983 itself and can't quite recall the name of the restaurant now. Anyhoo ... I thought I'd do a taste-test at three of Queensway's Chinese roast duck spots this afternoon:
Lunch spot #1: Four Seasons Restaurant (no relation to that hoity-toity hotel chain, of course). This ever-popular, always-crowded restaurant is the de facto "numero uno" of roast duck spots in Queensway. Regulars include Malaysian sultans, Thai students, assorted tourists from Singapore/HK/etc, locals who "know their roast duck" and perhaps anyone & everyone who'd heard of this place. Service was harried & wait-staff will unhesitantly ignore your upraised hand to attract attention as they rushed past your table. The roast duck was delicious, albeit slightly heavy hand with the 5-spice. Texture of the duck was moist, no or little fat under the roasted skin which was papery-thin and peeled off easily. The chilli dip was pretty unnecessary, unless you want a little spike of flavor. I liked the slightly-sweet soy dressing on the generous portion of off-the-bone duck-breast meat resting on a bed of Chinese white cabbage (Napa cabbage), atop steamed white rice. The soy dressing-flavored rice was absolutely delicious. Great roast duck - better than anything we have in Singapore or Malaysia today. Can't compare with HK ones as I haven't tried that many roast duck places in HK.
Lunch spot #2: Magic Wok Restaurant. Roast duck skin was paler but crispier, also served the same way as Four Seasons (which I think is the de rigeur method of serving roast duck amongst Chinese restaurants in Queensway) - resting on sliced Napa cabbage atop white rice. Little soy dressing, not sweetish as Four Seasons'. Very good duck-meat texture - moist and tender. Layers of fat underneath crispy, glossy skin (more golden-brown at Magic Wok, whllst deeper-brown colored at Four Seasons). I had to remove the fat by scraping them off before consuming the thin brown top layer. Chilli dip was on the salty side. Service was friendly, polite & top-notch - I did note that it's quieter at Magic Wok though.
Lunch-spot #3: Gold MIne - purportedly helmed by some ex-staff from Four Seasons. Fabulously crisp, golden-brown skin. Also thick layers of fat underneath the crisp part of the skin, but these were easily removed. Texture was the best of the 3 restaurants I tried. Service was prompt, friendly & efficient. I must admit that I enjoyed my lunch at Gold Mine most of all - no mean feat considering that it was my 3rd spot, and my tastebuds were beginning to have this sated effect from consuming the same fatty, oily dish in copious amounts in 3 separate restaurants - all within a space of a bit over an hour! I liked Gold Mine's duck-meat texture the most - it was tender, with hardly any chewy bits detected (which occurred in Four Seasons & Magic Wok's versions). I also liked Gold Mine's soy dressing best - it's the sweetest amongst the 3 places I tried and I personally have a bit of a sweet tooth. Gold Mine's chilli dip - more like Chinese XO sauce, with the addition of dried shrimps (maybe also some dried scallops?) put it miles ahead of Magic Wok & Four Seasons' chilli dips.
Sorry to have to miss other similar restaurants there - Kam Tong, Hung Tao, etc. I don't think I can manage > 3 roast duck lunches in a row. My rating of the restaurants I tried today - stricly IMO only:
#1 Gold Mine
#2 Four Seasons
#3 Magic Wok
100 Queensway, London W2, GB
102 Queensway, London W2 3RR, GB
84 Queensway, London W2, GB
Finally gotten round to try the sixth & last roast duck spot on Queensway - New Fortune Cookie.
Lovely textures from the duck meat, not too sweet sauce, and moist steamed rice (the last is my personal preference, actually). I'd actually rate this place the 3rd best actually, behind only Gold Mine & Four Seasons.
So, the final line-up of the best roast duck spots on Queensway, in descending order - according to my personal taste preferences:
#1 Gold Mine
#2 Four Seasons
#3 New Fortune Cookie
#4 Kam Tong
#5 Hung Tao
#6 Magic Wok
I am very pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the roast duck served at New Fortune Cookie. The service was also very friendly. But one note of caution though, I noticed the dishes ordered by diners at other tables around me - all of them non-Chinese - tend to look gluggy and pretty unappetising. British-style Chinese food.
The same is true for all the other restaurants listed above. They *only* do roast duck marvellously..
New Fortune Cookie
London W2 4QJ
Tel: 020 7727 7260/7317
Interesting. Nice duck overall but not so nice food otherwise, then.
How would you describe British-Chinese cuisine (other than "gluggy"), say by comparison with American-Chinese?
It seems "Chinese" food is now the UK's most popular cuisine... :-)
There are some similarities between British-Chinese food and Californian-Chinese, as both originated from Toishan-Cantonese origins, very rustic fare. New York/Washington DC's Chinese food, from my limited experience with them seemed different - more Taiwanese & Fujianese influence.
When you talk about Chinese or Indian cuisines being very popular in the UK - they are mainly referring to the take-outs joints - the food served there are very much customised to suit local tastes.
"...take-outs joints.....the food served there are very much customised to suit local tastes..."
One suspects so, or at least the smaller "corner spot" in some town or other - which is why I wrote "Chinese" within double quotation marks.
BTW, indeed NYC has historically seen a preponderance of Fujianese (Fukien) immigrants, especially in the old Chinatown in Manhattan. More recent arrivals have been more diverse, and the the Tri-State area has a lot of professional Chinese folks with family lineages from many regions (including Taiwanese).
There has also been discussion on these boards about the varying influence of the regionality distributions - historical and more recently - of the Chinese population in the SGV versus NYC versus SF versus Vancouver/GTO and how it affected and/or currently affects the quality of more authentic/traditional Chinese cuisine to be found in the respective places.
I went to Four Seasons a weeks ago. I didn't order the duck, because I wasn't in the mood. I had an order of stir-fry pea shoots and stir-fried seafood noodles (I'm fluent in Chinese btw). Those two dishes were two of the worst-executed examples I've ever had. The pea shoots was exceptionally oily and the pea shoots themselves had clearly expired. The seafood noodles were drenched in soy sauce, oily and overcooked. Truly terrible. Not to mention the service was very rude and they would only serve me until I started yelling at them in Chinese.
Continuing on my quest to find the best roast duck amongst the restaurants lining Queensway yesterday:
Lunch spot #1: Hung Tao - smallish, cosy but very smart-looking outlet. Service was personal & very warm. The roast duck had the requisite flavor & texture which I was looking for - the sauce was not as sweet the ones I had at Four Seasons nor Gold Mine.
Lunch spot #2: Kam Tong - bigger, brasher and busier (perhaps because it also offers a popular 'dim sum' spread. But we're here for the duck. Nothing much to differentiate between the version here and Hung Tau's quality-wise. But we had the white meat here (which I much preferred) compared to Hung Tao's dark meat serving.
My overall take on roast duck places at Queensway?
#1 Gold Mine
#2 Four Seasons
#3 Kam Tong (by a whisker)
#4 Hung Tao
#5 Magic Wok
I have to try the 6th & last place there - New Fortune Cookie - the next time.
London W2 4QH
Tel: 020 7727 5753
London W2 4QH
Tel: 020 7229 6065
Taste memory! Last night, I was at Koffmann's for his legendary braised pig's trotter stuffed with morels. The last time I had that same dish, it was during my birthday lunch at Pierre Koffmann's now-defunct La Tante Claire in 1994. One taste of that dish yesterday evening brought back *all* the old memories & evoked the same feelings I had then ... 18 years ago!
Did you eat all the cabbage and rice each time as well? Now *that* would have been an even greater feat! :-)
Strange, I used to swing by Queensway/Bayswater occasionally but don't remember eating in the Chinese restaurants *up* the road from Bayswater tube station, spending my time between Bayswater and Queensway tube stations...
Did you specifically asked them for the breast? Did they also say they'll charge more if you requested the drumstick? Personally, I always ask for the 'back' since I was told by chefs that is supposed to be the tastiest part ( assuming the marinade used is top notch ) and the skin is supposed to be the crispiest. Love to crush those bones and extract the juice from them. Who needs La Tour D'Argent's duck press when I have 'Manual oral duck press a la Charles Yu' Ha!!!
re: Charles Yu
Charles, how *did* you crush the duck bones orally?! You're like the gentlest Hound I'd ever met, ever! I guess you really turned canine at the whiff of Cantonese roast duck :-D
Anyways - I didn't specifically ask for any part of the duck at any of the 3 restaurants, but merely requested for the meat to be served off-the-bone. All 3 places seemed to serve me the same choicest part of the duck breast. All 3 places' roast duck were fabulous though.