Mandarin Kitchen’s dining room is in dire need of a makeover. The cave-like ceiling, brown fabric and dim lighting would be fine if diners were bats. Staff in brown tops and groups of dark-suited Japanese men on expense accounts do nothing to lift the gloom. Thankfully, service was attentive and friendly on our visit – yet this hasn’t always been the case.
The restaurant has long been famed for lobster and seafood. However, our lobster noodles with ginger and spring onion, though acceptable, could no longer be said to set the London standard. It’s worth enquiring about the ‘fish of the day’; this time, we were rewarded by stir-fried venus clams in a garlicky sauce studded with fresh red chillies. The dish was a rare highlight in a meal that was overshadowed by some criminally overcooked mixed seafood in XO sauce. The scallops, prawns and squid were rubbery and the dish was swimming in oil; thank goodness for the accompanying perfectly cooked asparagus and straw mushrooms.
None of these faults deters the hordes of queuing tourists (out-of-date guidebooks in hand) – but Mandarin Kitchen seems to be resting, nay slumped, on its laurels.