New fine-dining Chinese restaurant Chai Wu has opened on the fifth floor of Harrods. We caught up with executive chef Ian Pengelley to get the low-down on his latest venture.
How was the launch of Chai Wu?
The kitchen wasn’t ready so we ended up with just half a day to open, which is just typical when you open a restaurant! We had engineers and builders walking around the kitchen while the chefs were trying to prep. It was a bit mental, but it’s all sorted now.
Are you pleased with the result?
On the whole I’m really happy with how everything’s turned out. There’s no point busting your balls if the feedback is rubbish but everyone seems happy – both the customers and staff.
Are you based in the kitchen?
I’ve been in the kitchen for the last 11 days solid, which is pretty full on. It’s unfair to ask the team to work all the hours, seven days a week if you’re not prepared to do it yourself. Once we’re up and running I’ll split my time between here and the Mango Tree in Belgravia, where I’m also executive chef.
Was the menu a collaboration?
Myself and the head chef, Bihu Xie, did loads of research before creating the menu. We went to countless Chinese restaurants in London and even took a trip to Hong Kong to sample dishes. Our aim was to feature popular Chinese dishes but make them cool and give them sex appeal – I think we’ve achieved that.
We already operate two restaurants in the food court (Pan Chai and Mango Tree) so it seemed an obvious step. We love Harrods, it’s a world-known brand so we asked them, ‘What can you give us?’ And they showed us the fifth floor next to Shoe Heaven and here we are.
Finally, what’s your favourite restaurant in London?
I’m a massive fan of Indian food and I absolutely love Trishna in Marylebone. The food is incredibly good.
Read Square Meal's review of Chai Wu here.
This article was published on 28 January 2015