Spanning three floors of a Georgian townhouse in W1, Mimi Mei Fair is the third outpost from leading restaurateur Samyukta Nair (Jamavar and Bombay Bustle). Just like her other Mayfair institutions, it doesn’t disappoint, its richly-detailed decor fashioned around 1920s Shanghai and the imaginary private residence of Empress MiMi. The food is equally as flamboyant, with renowned Chinese-Singaporean chef Peter Ho serving up an authentic and innovative menu. For the last word in opulent Chinese, this is our London restaurant review of the week.
“Once upon a time there was a beautiful empress named MiMi…” Thus begins the story told by restaurateur Samyukta Nair (Jamavar, Bombay Bustle) and her design collaborators Fabled Studio at MiMi Mei Fair, Nair’s opulent new Chinese restaurant on Curzon Street. This is a restaurant as fantasy, the opulent townhouse imagined as the private London residence of their fictional heroine and brought to richly detailed, almost cinematic life, worthy of a Wong Kar-wai picture. We go inside to take a look.
She lives in high style, this glamorous émigrée. Her Georgian townhouse has secrets hidden across all three storeys. We’re seated in the ‘Hall’ on the first floor, in a shiny wooden booth that might have come from the Orient Express. “Park Chinois meets Bob Bob Ricard”, remarks my restaurant-literate date. It’s the buzziest room, though arguably not as jaw-droppingly beautiful as the coral and Wedgwood-blue parlour upstairs with its chandeliers and Chinoiserie screens, or the drawing room with its yellow walls and art collection.
She’s quite the epicurean too, our friend MiMi, and has appointed Chinese-Singaporean chef Peter Ho (My Humble House, HKK, Hakkasan) to indulge her every whim, from xiao long bao in the colours of the rainbow to whole langoustine, head and claws intact, wrapped in crispy noodles and anointed with a dab of Périgord truffle. It’s all thoroughly decadent.
The star attraction, however, is roasted Peking duck, expertly carved at our table, served with sugar for the skin (as glossy and reflective as mahogany) and homemade chilli and garlic sauces for the tender meat. There’s only so much the two of us can manage, while saving room for juicy Singapore chilli prawns with black-and-white sesame-studded mantou ‘cigars’ and a late attempt to get our five-a-day in the form of addictive XO Okra scattered with shallot and enoki mushroom and simply steamed baby pak choi.
Next time, we’ll come with friends – greedy ones – to order the black pepper crab, the steamed Dover sole or, no, maybe the dim sum or the tasting menu. So many choices… it’s a hard life being empress MiMi for a day. Pass the opium, somebody.