Situated in Victoria, the globally acclaimed House of Ming restaurant opens its doors this week (May 25); I got a little sneak peek and let me tell you, it is next-level luxury. Brace yourself – this’ll be a long read, but this spot is worth it.
The restaurant, situated in the five-star Taj 51 Buckingham Gate, Suites and Residences, originated in New Delhi and is arguably one of the finest Chinese restaurants in India. While it is most definitely not everyday dining, it truly is something special. Despite all the splendour though, House of Ming strives to create a more attainable atmosphere; their tagline is “welcome HOM” (pronounced “home”). On my visit, the staff were absolutely exceptional in their service and the ambience was jovial rather than stuffy.
The interiors at the House of Ming
House of Ming reflects the opulence that surrounds it; it is just moments from the ultimate in London decadence, Buckingham Palace. The interiors, designed by the team at Atelier Wren, are chic and inspired by the Ming Dynasty that once ruled China. Elements of traditional Chinese design – think handpainted canvas ceilings and carefully crafted pottery – are incorporated with botanicals, like intrinsically designed ginkgo leaves, and there is a real focus on bespoke craftsmanship and handcrafted furniture.
In the mood for love? The restaurant is home to a rather romantic dining experience: two sets of bespoke, golden love seats nestled around a table, under a brass “twisted ginkgo” pendant light, with a privacy curtain and button that discreetly calls the kitchen for a unique surprise. While I enjoyed group dining instead, I was sure to make a mental note of this spot.
TV personality and DJ Gok Wan created the playlist at House of Ming in London. He stated he wanted to achieve a high-spirited vibe that is almost ‘get up and dance’, and I feel he achieved this as I hummed along to the tunes.
Tea, cocktails and wine
It’s customary to write about the food first in my restaurant reviews, but the drinks bag prime spot this time. The tea at House of Ming is a once-in-a-lifetime treat – almost literally, as one of the pots of tea is £6,000 ($1.2million per kg!) The Da Hong Pao tea is available at the restaurant by appointment only and is the most expensive tea in the world. It is usually served in China’s palace, and has a light taste – though I must confess not vastly different to my normal tea of choice.
My favourite tea was equally fancy, but a little cheaper: Sea of Blossoms uses 100 types of blossom from 22 different countries around the world, and fun fact, it was served by our Queen during a Spanish state visit. It is deliciously fruity both in smell and taste, and served as part of an eight teas flight at the restaurant. House of Ming boasts a wide variety of white tea, black tea, green tea, and oolong tea, and the restaurant has its own dedicated tea sommelier.
Away from the tea, House of Ming perfects its cocktails. To honour the Chinese tea traditions, I first tried the House of Zhu, a vodka-based oolong tea and grapefruit bitter cocktail, served in a teapot with pink blossom. It was refreshing and almost creamy tasting (thanks to the milk punch), despite appearing clear and almost water like. If whisky sours are your thing, opt for the Silk Route cocktail, which is served with a smokey flourish.
My favourite drink on the night was actually a mocktail, Year Of The Rabbit, made with sweet, refreshing lychee. I don’t want to reveal too much, but this drink uses bespoke glassware with a little surprise revealed as you drink. There is also a world-class wine list available, focused on small producers and vineyards from around the globe.
The food at House of Ming
Hong Kong-born Head Chef, Dickson Leung, is at the helm of House of Ming, bringing a wealth of experience to create authentic Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine. There is a heaving list of dim sum, small plates and large plates, and my goodness, the flavour combos are unrivalled. The menu is inspired by the signature dishes and ingredients at the famed New Delhi outpost, but there are London-specific dishes too. If you’re vegetarian, there is a breadth of options, and the staff are keen to cater for any dietary requirements, so you have the most enjoyable dining experience.
I had an absolute feast on my visit, and I don’t think I even touched the sides of the menu. The flavours were strong, but not overpowering, in the edamame smoked chilli, scallop golden garlic, and chicken gyoza, and I particularly enjoyed the hit of spice in the edamame offering. The chicken gyoza was soft, but presented on a crisped base, which offered a nice variation of texture.
The small plates and large plates are designed for sharing. My standout small plates were the soft-shell crab, encased in a light and lovely batter (and, despite being listed as spicy, it was relatively mild); and the lotus stem honey chilli, which was sweet and saucy, with a good bite. A novelty option – though still rather tasty, thanks to its flavoursome coating – was the BBQ lamb cumin and chilli. It was presented on a mini skewer on a mini grill; a nice touch.
If you have just one large plate on your visit, I implore it to be the lobster. Again, the sauce and coating were the stars, combining spice with a rich seafood flavour. However, as the menu is immense, there are plenty of other meat and vegetarian options, plus rice and noodles to accompany. The duck pancakes came with a side of showmanship; the whole duck is presented to you atop a lit fire, then the chefs will take it back into the kitchen and prepare your little parcels of goodness. Don’t be afraid to ask for a touch more hoisin sauce if you wish.
Now, I didn’t really have room for dessert, but I indulged anyway – and I am SO happy I did. As with all the dishes, the presentation was on point. The citrus lime and yuzu mousse was fashioned into a very convincing lemon, and tasted moreishly light and zingy. The chocolate marquise with caramelised pineapple was equally as beautiful, presented like a rose, and wasn’t super rich. The chefs had made a clear effort to create desserts that were enjoyable, even after such a hearty meal.
Word to the wise wealthy, if the standard menu isn’t a treat enough, you can take things a step further: there is a Chef’s Choice 17-course (!!) menu, designed exclusively to be enjoyed in the private dining room.
All in all, I cannot fault House of Ming, and I imagine it’ll be just as much of a hit on London’s dining scene as it is in New Delhi. While it isn’t a budget-friendly option, if you’re feeling flush, or looking to dine out for a really special occasion, this place will not disappoint.
Alongside House of Ming, you’ll also find four other eateries at the Taj Hotel, namely Michelin-starred Quilon, the award-winning afternoon tea restaurant Kona, The Hamptons Bar, and TH@51 restaurant, Bar and Courtyard. The hotel brand was established over 100 years ago in India, and today has decadent outposts in India, North America, Africa, the Middle East, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, and here in the UK.