Sir David Tang’s slinky dining room in the Dorchester’s basement successfully manages to banish all thoughts of hotel restaurants from diners’ minds. The separate Park Lane entrance helps, as do art deco furnishings evoking 1930s Shanghai. Only the moneyed, multinational clientele remind you of the locality.
China Tang has formidable kitchen resources, so it would be a shame to stick to the western-oriented set meals (where cheung fun is renamed cannelloni) – though à la carte prices can intimidate. Despite the setting, Shanghainese cuisine is little in evidence, with Cantonese dominating.
Hence, dim sum is a good choice, with most dishes costing around a fiver. Mango spring rolls with gai lan is among several vegetarian choices, and glutinous rice comes packed with seductive titbits for meat-eaters. Main course red-cooked lamb in clay pot is a marvellously savoury northern Chinese dish, the meat tender, the gravy profoundly flavoured, the texture enhanced by strips of resilient beancurd skin.
Service was proper and polite, yet we noted some frayed edges: no one stationed at the ground-floor ‘greeter’s counter’; shouting in the kitchen drowning out diners’ conversation; and Hugh Grant reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 stuck on a loop in the toilets. Enough ‘darling buds’, Hugh.