Pearl Liang Chinese Restaurant Review – Paddington
Published 19 November 2009
I previously mentioned in my review of Princess Gardens of Mayfair how I felt the dim sum in Pearl Liang was one of the best in London. Indeed, since that review a few months ago, I have been back to the Pearl Liang restaurant numerous times for a late morning/early afternoon dim sum (Cantonese-style tapas), and have not been disappointed. The restaurant atmosphere is sophisticated and refined, tables are well spaced out giving privacy and quietness, the service is excellent, and the dim sum is just heavenly. The only thing that stopped me from going there more frequently was the fact that it is located a good brisk walk behind Paddington Train Station, and I live on the other side of London.
About two weeks ago, I decided to go back again, but this time for dinner. I was on their mailing list, and heard about their 25% discount poff a la carte food promotion on Sunday and Monday evenings, and jumped at the opportunity. This was a Sunday afternoon at 4pm when I decided to go there with my friends, so I gave them a ring, mentioned the offer, and made a table booking for that night.
Dinner was quite a different experience from dim sum. While every dim sum dish that I had tried there was executed to perfection and tasted heavenly, the dinner a la carte dishes were more hit and miss. Perhaps it was just those particular dishes that we tried from the menu, but overall dinner was slightly disappointing given their high dim sum standards.
The best dish that we had that night was the Peking Duck (£32 for whole), which consisted of pancakes with crispy duck skin, roast duck meat, spring onions and sauce. The crispy duck skins just melt in your mouth, and the duck meat was succulent and tasty. What surprised me as well was that the waitress helped each one of us to roll our first duck skin pancake, which never ever happens in service-shy London. Although a whole duck was slightly too much for five of us around the table we finished it all without a complaint as it was just that delicious.
The euphoria from the first dish was short lived, however, as the following dishes failed to replicate the magic. The honey-glazed barbecued char siu was slightly too sweet and syrupy, and the silken bean curd with crabmeat was rather bland with the flavours not combining well. The beancurd tofu itself was very smooth and high quality, but somehow the sweetness from the crabmeat sauce did not integrate well with the tofu, and hence it felt like eating plain boiled beancurd. The sizzling prawns in black bean sauce were rather good though and the few king prawns in the dish quickly disappeared into the five hungry mouths around the table.
For dessert, we ordered a range of dishes to share, and was not disappointed on the whole. The grapefruit and mango with tapoica sounded delicious on paper and was indeed very refreshing, but had less flavour than expected. Likewise, the steam sponge roll with custard yolk was well made and tasted just like what home-made sponge roll would taste like, but in a restaurant you expect something extra, something more. The saving grace was the chrysanthemum custard bun, which was unique and unusual, and delivered a nice sweet filling that was complimented with the soft bun on the outside.
When we got the bill at the end of the meal, we were shocked; not at the price, which was rather reasonable, but by the fact that our 25% dinner discount had not been given. We thought that a quick word with the manager would sort out this mistake; instead we were told that the discount was only available if the table was booked online through their site. This, despite me asking twice if I could get the discount when I made the booking over the phone. As we complained, the manager, Derek, just flatly said that he could not change the billing computer system to give us the discount, even though he was the manager and in charge of the entire place that night. With a sour taste in our mouths at that point, we asked if the optional steep 12.5% service charge could be taken off, as a compromise between no discount and 25%, which was initially refused as, according to Derek, the service charge goes to the staff (which I am suspicious of believing). We offered Derek the choice of taking 12.5% off the bill and keeping the service charge so it goes to the staff. In the end, Derek decided that the staff were worth shortchanging and took off the service charge instead of giving us any discount of the bill at all.
Verdict: After this experience, I’m not sure if the traumatic wound of an arrogant management unwilling to accept their mistake will ever recover. Certainly in London if I refuse to go to Pearl Liang again there are no shortage of good dim sum and Cantonese/Chinese restaurants. Hopefully I can forget about this experience sooner or later, and return to Pearl Liang for their delicious dim sum one day.
More pictures of the dinner a la carte dishes that we had that day:
Rating: 3 out of 10 stars for this visit, for previous dim sum visits without problems, 8 out of 10 stars
Cuisine: Dim Sum, Cantonese/Chinese cuisine
Price Range: £20-25 per person for dinner, including non-alcoholic drinks. Dim Sum is cheaper at around £10-£15 per head
Address: 8 Sheldon Square, Paddington Central, London W2 6EZ (location map)
Nearest Tube Stations: Paddington Tube & Train Station (10 minutes walk)
Tel for Booking: +44 0207 289 7000