The rule of thumb in Chinese restaurants is to look around for diners of Sinaean extraction and be sceptical when you don’t see them. That said, Phoenix Palace’s dinnertime abundance of well-fed, tie-wearing western and south Asian men in late middle age is an endorsement; they’re the international businessmen used to the Cantonese food served in the upmarket Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong spots that this large restaurant most resembles. Expensive, heavy Asian wood decor, and Molton Brown hand cream in the women’s toilets emphasise the similarities.
The arena-like layout of raised tables on the edge of the central dining area is good for people-watching, and spying to see which tables are being the most bold with the expansive menu. The crispy duck pancakes here aren’t London’s best, but they didn’t disappoint. Scallops in crispy green fried ‘bird’s nest’ were tasty, though we suspect the MSG kick had been diminished for western palates.
Service can let things down, with the occasional lengthy wait between courses, but the excellent har gau (shrimp dumplings) are a reminder of why reservations are a must for weekend dim sum – unless you want to queue for more than an hour.