' ...A delightful cacophony of cultures fused together by an underlying sense of service and culinary creativity '
by Thomas Haydn Dee
Grand Imperial London is something of a mystery. It seems to have appeared overnight, without warning and above all without explanation. An upmarket Chinese restaurant on the site of a former French brasserie (Chez Gerrard) and annexed to a quintessentially British Hotel (The Grosvenor); Grand Imperial London is the latest outing from Cantonese culinary rock star Rand Cheung.Following a string of successful Far-Eastern openings, Cheung brought his know-how to London to provide what he claimed would be an authentic Cantonese restaurant experience and boy did he deliver.
The menu offers a dazzling array of dishes from dim-sum to traditional Cantonese delicacies and an abundance of succulently prepared seafood. The grandeur of the menu is matched by its surroundings and an unmistakably British twist, such as the dim-sum afternoon tea has quickly established this restaurant as a London favourite.
If you live or work in London, there is a good chance you will have walked past the entrance to this restaurant without giving it a second glance. Located on the corner of Victoria tube station and Buckingham Palace Road, it is an annex of The Grosvenor Hotel but benefits from a separate entrance. A flight of steps leads up to the double doors that give nothing away of the secret world inside.
What used to be Chez Gerrard Brasserie has been transformed through considerable time, effort and expense (a reported £2M makeover) into a serene and seductive grand dining room. Large painted columns impose a sense of space and gravity. Softer touches of crisp linen tablecloths; plush carpets, floods of natural daylight and large floral compositions instil a comfortable and elegant ambiance.
The restaurant is divided into several areas. The main room is large yet spacious as the tables are sparsely positioned. A second space houses the chic uplit cocktail bar and an impressive wall of double-sided glass wine cabinets as well as another dining area. Finally, an indulgent and luxuriously appointed private dining room is also available and able to accommodate up to twenty guests.
The restaurant is beautifully decorated with original architectural features as well as exotic oriental artwork including large calligraphic wall hangings, bonsai trees and dark wood furniture.
Having dined here for both lunch and dinner; both experiences were flawless in terms of service. Management and staff are friendly and approachable without being overly chatty or disruptive.
Whilst Grand Imperial is a wonderful restaurant for lunch or dinners; it's important to mention that the cocktail bar is also a delight in its own right and can be visited as a stand-alone element. The prices will remind you that you're in a top-end London Hotel, but aren't comparatively higher than others and certainly the surroundings and expert mixologists provide sufficient divertissement and, in my opinion, value for money.
On the night of our visit, the barman on hand (who also had a significant role to play in the creation of the house cocktail list) certainly impressed and inspired us with his unique flair and attention to our needs and desires. The barman in tandem with the restaurant manager ensured that throughout the evening our drinks were well matched to the food and, as you would expect with any such fine dining restaurant, we weren't left wanting.
Upon arrival we enjoyed a chilled flute of Perrier Jouet whilst perusing the extensive a la carte menu. We also sampled one of Grand Imperials' celebrated 'Lucky 8' cocktails. This cocktail is famous in it's own right as it was especially created to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The 'Lucky 8' cocktail is mixed with Stolichnaya,Ketel One Citroenand Limoncello, fresh lemon, Angostura bitters as well as the important 'lucky' mandarin orange and orange juice to give it a refreshing zesty flavour perfect for casting off any bad luck.
To accompany our meal of dim sum, seafood and delicate beef; the manager suggested a bottle of Reserve Sauvignon Blanc which proved to be the perfect accompaniment to the fish especially.
As has been our custom during the process of scouting the town for our Top 10 restaurants in London; we opted for a post-dinner cocktail. The friendly Portuguese barman at Grand Imperial restaurant has created his very own take on the increasingly trendy breakfast martini. An eccentric and alternative concoction; this 'breakfast in America' as he called it was a truly spectacular fusion of bourbon, orange and 'cuaranta y tres' which made for an entirely unique cocktail. My colleague in true, unwavering style ventured instead for his usual old fashioned which was given all the care and time the iconic beverage requires. Both drinks were thoroughly enjoyable and contributed in no small part to the overall satisfaction of the dining experience.
Dining at Grand Imperial London is a serene and sophisticated affair. The environment, staff and above all, the spoilt-for-choice menu, are all conducive to an enjoyable drawn out evening of fine dining. (Having said that, the lunchtime dim-sum set menu is also great for a swift lunch!)
The menu is best experienced as sharing plates with several diners. We chose the assorted Dim Sum Platter (£12) to share as well as a portion of Foie Gras and beef dumplings.
Undeniably the Dim Sum served here are some of the freshest and most delicate examples of this cuisine that I have experienced in London. The freshness of the ingredients is all too apparent and the presentation is intricate and exciting. The manager explained that the Dim Sum varies seasonally and that the menu, inspired by founder Rand Cheung directly, is created to serve both traditional and contemporary tastes.
The foie gras dumplings in particular were a real hit. Steamingly hot, the translucent parcels burst in the mouth and release such an array of flavours that this dish alone could easily be an enticing factor to visit the restaurant again soon.
A middle course of puree of spinach soup with bamboo pith and seafood (£6) was thoroughly enjoyable. Thick and gelatinous with large succulent pieces of seafood; it married perfectly with the crisp white wine and nicely set up the main courses to follow.
Having already expended over an hour sipping champagne, wandering with amazement through the menu and sampling the delightful starter and middle courses; we stepped outside for a brief sojourn. It is easy, after even a small period of time spent in the restaurant, to forget that you are on one of the busiest corners of central London. Standing atop the steps, martinis in hand and observing the passers by and commuters making their way to the station was a somewhat bizarre experience. A few moments later and we ventured back in to the altogether more relaxed, quieter environment.
Continuing with sharing dishes, we chose a classic Beef in Black Bean Sauce (£22), which was truly spectacular. Whole strips of tender steak submerged in a powerful yet balanced sauce.
We also chose a lighter dish in order to sample the variety of the menu. Pan-Fried Black Cod with Lemon and Herbal Sauce (£24) was equally impressive and again proved to be a perfect pairing with the Sauvignon Banc.
To accompany the mains we chose side orders of special fried rice with pork and prawns (£12) and Chinese Greens (£6)
Considering the delicate nature of the cuisine and the fine-dining surroundings of the restaurant; the portions were unexpectedly generous with the beef in particular being a large serving. The main courses were expertly prepared and once again played testimony to Grand Imperials' dedication to serving the freshest possible produce.
Rand Cheung' Grand Imperial London restaurant has an undeniably traditional Cantonese pedigree though glancing at the desert menu will remind you that this is London and the Chef has been inspired to create a harmonious blend of British / Cantonese fusion. Featured items include such dishes as chilled avocado cream with ice cream, strawberry lychee pudding, ginger tea with sesame and other such dishes. All deserts are priced at £7 with the exception of the fantastically intriguing double boiled birds nest with rock sugar which is priced at (£48).
We both had the Grand Imperial Green tea créme brulee which perfectly rounded off the evenings' indulgences and facilitated the transition from dinner to our departing cocktail at the bar.
The layout of the restaurant is versatile enough to accommodate intimate private dining alongside group reservations and is able to host stylish events from business lunches to launch evenings, receptions; and from Christmas parties to wedding receptions. The staff, service, menu and layout of the restaurant are all remarkably geared towards providing a unique experience.
Certainly one of the best Chinese restaurants in London, Grand Imperial superbly combines authentic Cantonese cuisine with great consideration to the unmistakably British surroundings of The Grosvenor Hotel.
We would thoroughly recommend Grand Imperial London and will certainly be returning soon!