Kai 333

65 South Audley Street , London, W1K 2QU

020 3544 0788

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SquareMeal Review of Kai

Michelin-starred Kai’s big claim is that it ‘liberates’ Chinese cooking, delivering what some fans regard as the best “fusion food” of its kind in London – although the straight-backed dining rooms can feel rather staid, despite the odd colourful flourish and statement objets. Supporters are happy to forgive any excess ceremony, allowing the kitchen to play with flavours in imaginative ways. At lunch, a succession of small plates might include glutinous rice balls scented with Wagyu beef oil, while tiger prawns with crisp curry leaves recall Indo-Chinese meetings on the great spice routes. For dinner, dial things up with a plate of pan-fried foie gras, caramelised cashews, white pepper, spring onions, grapes and passion fruit dressing, followed by ‘lobster and lobster’ – a combo of the burly crustacean with ginger and spring onion plus noodles drizzled with lobster oil. Desserts are no afterthought, either – their durian and vanilla soufflé with salted caramel is likely to be the only pud of its kind in town.

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MONICA GALETTI

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Kai is recommended for

Special Occasions Under 40S | One Michelin Star

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Nearby Tube/Rail Stations

Green Park Tube Station 592m

Bond Street Tube Station 665m

Address

Address: 65 South Audley Street , London W1K 2QU

Area: Mayfair Oxford Street

Opening times

Mon-Sun 12N-2.30pm (Sat-Sun 12.30pm- ) 6.30-10.45pm

Nearby Landmarks

The Dorchester Hotel 206m

Curzon Mayfair Cinema 242m

Details

Telephone: 020 3544 0788

Website:

Cuisine: Chinese

Lunch: £24 (3 courses)

Private Dining: 10

7.2

Food & Drink: 7.6

Service: 7.1

Atmosphere: 6.4

Value: 5.8

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Gourmand Gunno platinum reviewer 19 July 2017

For any restaurant to have maintained a Michelin Star for nine consecutive years, it must be doing something right. I was mighty impressed with Kai (the beholder of such an achievement), although what could have been a truly memorable experience was somewhat let down by the service. Things began badly upon arrival: half-past twelve on a Friday lunchtime and the place was deserted. The front of house did not deign to acknowledge me, choosing to carry on her phone call as if I were invisible, while a flunkey told me to wait until she was ready. What happened to the customer always being right? I did eventually get shown to a table, and gradually settled in, but at no stage during my meal did I observe any sense of warmth from or rapport between the serving staff; rather, it seemed almost as if they were in competition with each other. Fortunately, this mattered only at the margin, since I got to enjoy the view (a calm grey décor populated with modern art, a capacious fish tank and tables that were beginning to fill up) and sample some of the best Chinese cooking I have experienced in London. The angle at Kai is Nanyang cooking, namely with an emphasis produce from the South China Sea area. Diners get to enjoy cuisine that is deeply flavoured, complex and original, drawing not just on local tradition but also more international influences. A great example would be our first starter, namely Kai’s take on ‘pig in blankets’, not the British yuletide fare of a sausage wrapped with bacon, but rather Iberico pork, plum and lime dressing, chopped cashew and sliced shallots, served in a Cos lettuce wrap. It ticked all the boxes, and the food only got better. Mains of roasted Chilean sea bass with black vinegar syrup, five-hour Oriental spiced pork belly and spring chicken & Szechuan spicy crumble were all superlative, in terms of appearance, composition and flavour. Vegetarians are well-catered for, with around 20 dishes from which to choose; and, tucked at the back, there are also some ‘comfort foods’ for traditionalists, such as prawn toast. The wine list too impressed, particularly with a range of high-quality Alsace options. The only catch – it’s not cheap. Most of the starters come in at close to £20, while some (although by no means all) of the mains are pushing £50. Great for a special occasion (or if someone else is paying!).

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 4.0

Nina W. 27 June 2013

I booked on behalf of someone else and their immediate response when I asked for feedback was that 'timing between courses was excellent, we weren't rushed' and ‘I loved the atmosphere’.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 2.0

Amy M. bronze reviewer 25 August 2011

I discovered Kai at the Taste London festival in the summer and the food was far and away the best at the festival. We subsequently booked for dinner with great anticipation. No question that the restaurant is beautifully done out, in keeping with the area it's located in, but it has an odd layout and makes for a cold and slight awkward atmosphere. That aside the service is impeccable and welcoming, but the food was a bit of a disappointment. The food is brilliantly excuted, well presented and very tasty, but there was no wow factor about it. In Square Meal's own review it comments on the “jaw-droppingly steep prices” and for this you would expect to be blown away. We had only one glass of wine between 3 of us (we were drinking tea, not sharing) and the bill was still over £300. There was a definite consensus that we had all had a lovely meal, but there was no desire to come back and would much rather spend the money in Zuma. There is nothing to knock Kai for, it's just missing that je ne sais quoi…

Food & Drink: 2.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 2.0

Alice S. 14 June 2011

Went there for my special treat from my boyfriend on my birthday. When I heard that he's taking me to a michelin star restaurant I was very excited. And I searched the internet and wanted to pre-decide what I was going to have, but found many bad reviews. Well, different people have different views so I just ignored them. When we arrived the restaurant, everything seemed fine. There's a very pretty receptionist welcomed us in and showed us the table. Very well positioned table in the middle of the dinning room. They have very good wine list but not the cocktails, a bit average list. Everything went smooth and lovely until a waitress, a manager and another waitress came and introduced us their food and, this was what put me off, telling us how to eat Chinese food. If we were dummies from Big Brother house, it sounds reasonable, but we were clearly CHINESE couple and speak in Chinese in a top end Chinese restaurant. it should told them we were going to be ok with our food and we know how to eat it. But three times telling us how to share the food? We started ordering, I ordered ‘Chang Sha’ Prawns, the menu says “A tightly kept secret recipe combining 15 ingredients named after the region of Hunan where our Head Chef served his apprenticeship”. I love Hu Nan dishes, they are the most spicy dishes in China. But when the prawns arrived, it looked very well placed, but only 6 prawns. For £22 it seemed bit expensive, but I thought if the taste is good, it worth it. However, not at all, it tasted like Sweet and Sour Prawns, and not spicy at all, it was very sweet. I don't know where were the 15 secret ingredients their Head Chef learnt from, I am sure he learnt it from a Chinese takeaway when he came to the UK years ago. It was a disaster. And my boyfriend ordered the Ostrich with Spring Onions in Oyster Sauce. It was again very bland. The ostrich meat was very tender, but the sauce was very normal, it was just black bean with oyster sauce that we could get from any Chinese restaurant. Anyway, we had another main course and it was all very normal. After we finished mains, the waitress showed us the desserts. As it was my birthday, the waitress mentioned that my dessert will be on the house. The desserts we had were very nicely done. The total bill was about £180, included my dessert which should be on the house. I didn't bother, just asked him to pay. A posh restaurant but has no soul in it. Nothing special. Don't think it worth michelin star. Wouldn't go back.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 5.0

Ellie C. 21 October 2010

I dined at Kai Mayfair on Saturday – a special treat for my niece (16) after doing so well in her exams. What an experience! We had a lovely table – perfect for people watching and were looked after impeccably. The food was exquisite both for carnivores and vegetarians. I ordered their famous wasabi prawns to start – beautifully favoured and a very generous portion. My niece enjoyed the vegetarian version of Peking Duck which was splendid – she's not the biggest of eaters, but there was nothing left of the six pancakes she was given! For main courses, I had the chicken with cashews – normally a conservative dish, but Kai does it in such a way that it is lightly spiced with chilli and had a great kick to it! My niece (somewhat full from her starter) had Spiced Route Chai, which she also managed to polish off with great enjoyment. She also managed to find room for dessert (adored the mango cake) and the complimentary petite fours. All in all, I would rate our experience at Kai very highly. It is unusual in London restaurants to be treated with such diligence and respect when you're dining with a teenager. She loved the fact that she was treated like a lady and we both felt thoroughly spoiled by the attention from the excellent staff and a visit from Alex, the chef. Yes, it's pricy, but it's well worth it.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 0.0

Value: 0.0

Tony L. 02 October 2010

OK – after having eaten in most chinese top end restaurants in London. The anticipation of experiencing Kai after a hard week and feeling rather tired… our friend, my wife and I were looking forward to it… especially after the night when the restaurant was on Ramsay's best restaurants… if anyone saw it… then the restaurant in Blackburn won. I can totally understand why… Lets forget the price… lets focus on the food and service. Food – very good. But michelin standard no way Drink – wine list pretty good. cocktails very average (did not ask for another) Service – how many times do we need to be asked by the nice ladies at the front. 3 times asking for my name and and whether or not I made a reservation – ok one can live with that… but wait for it… Food being taken from the table while we were in deep conversation – I kept chopsticks open as well as my cutlery apart (should be a sign I have not finished my meal) – low and behold – it gone! I called the waitress quietly and asked please can you bring some rice as I have not finished eating. She brings back my original bowl from the kitchen and then shows it to me and I ask politely, please can you bring me another fresh portion so I can finish the dishes on the table… she then serves and scraps the bowl of rice onto my plate (of which is cold and I did not ask her to do that – it was only about ten-15 individual rice pieces – absolutely pointless… Now my point is – you expect michelin service at a michelin star restaurant. You also expect if a dish is taken from the table back to the kitchen a fresh one should come back especially when you ask for it. I'm no snob but hey when one pays over 100 pounds per person I want fresh food and served in a top 100 pound way. OK – overall experience – BLAND – no atmosphere, the experience was depressing though the food kept us alive. If you really wants to spends lots of money on chinese – take 50 of your friends out to your local or even into soho or Royal China restaurant and you get value for money and great food. Damn shame about Kai… it lacks soul. Would I go again – yes if they did take-away. Enjoy! Tony

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Nawab P. 17 April 2010

Superb food, pricey but authentic new fusion on the Chinese seen in London, no where in China you will ever find such a nice food that mixes so many different aromas and tastes of China, I recommend it highly. It has not yet caught the imagination of the hip crowd and does not have the notoriety that Hakasan and Zuma enjoy.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Denise C. 22 February 2010

Kai really is an example of a fantastic chinese restaurant . Although pricey -(definitely a step above Hakkasan & Yauatcha on the ££ factor) the food is superb, and in my opinion of a better quality to the other high-end chinese restaurants around. Unfortunately the downstairs section has a definite ‘hotel restaurant’ feel to it, but it doesn't detract from the overall experience. Don't go without trying the Wasabi prawns or soft shell crab with mango- and try and make sure you go with someone who will foot the bill!

Food & Drink: 0.0

Service: 0.0

Atmosphere: 0.0

Value: 0.0

Tanya D. silver reviewer 06 February 2009

Shame on Kai! Having shark fin soup on the menu when they are so severely endangered. For what? For a soup! Quite frankly a restaurant that does not have any sense of social responsibility (foie gras is bad enough but it doesnt harm ecosystems, geese arent endangered and sharks cannot be bred in captivitiy) does not get any good comments from me. Am I allowed to be political in a review, there is an article on the BBC website highlighting how bad the situation really is for these creatures.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 3.0

MissSushi silver reviewer 22 December 2008

A lot of restaurants that have been around for decades never change their menus and so retain only older patrons. Without new generations of diners sooner or later a restaurant dies. Ten years ago I thought that was exactly what was going to happen to Kai, but I was fortunately wrong. Kai has always been a traditional high end chinese restaurant, but they have been brave and adventurous enough to grow with time and adapt their menu to all, without compromising their chinese roots. Instead they adapt foreign or unusual ingredients to support and complement the flavour of the dishes. Sometimes service can be a little slow and the decor is terribly dated, but the food is always consistent. I strongly recommend fellow diners to try the wasabi prawns, the abalone dish and the lobster noodles.

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