Monday, 22 October 2018

Kym's, Bloomberg Arcade

It seems I'm not the only one that's been waiting - with an expectation bordering on feverish - for Kym's, the new restaurant from restaurateur-chef Andrew Wong. During the course of dinner there last week I lost count of the number of people trying their luck as a walk-in. Again and again, every few seconds, for the whole two hours or so we were there, various groups of rather well dressed people (this is the City after all) would approach the front desk, look longingly around the room, and then be sent dejectedly back out into the rainy London streets, tail between their legs. It was enough to make someone who had secured his booking a few days before the inevitable slew of 5 star reviews quite pleased with himself (that would be me, then) - sometimes it pays to be a restaurant obsessive.

So Kym's is the hottest ticket in town, but this was always likely to be the case. A Wong in Victoria is many people's favourite Chinese restaurant, pretty much the only good reason to travel to that part of town if you don't have tickets to see Wicked, but in that functional (albeit friendly) little space, the food did the talking. In Bloomberg Arcade, Wong's team have installed themselves in one of those flashy split-level City spaces typical of these kinds of new builds, a grand central staircase circling a huge fake sakura tree and various attractively spotlit tables, so here there's even more to get excited about. The food could even take a bit of a back seat, and the place would still be rammed.

Of course, there's no sign of the food being anything less than as exquisitely thoughtful and well-rendered as in Victoria, so you can relax on that front as well. But first, a citrus cocktail involving a pleasing buzz of sichuan peppercorns, which glowed wonderfully under the house lights. Sorry to bang on about the lighting so much - it really won't be that much of an issue for most diners, but if you're taking photos of your food it really makes a difference.

I mean just look at these pork skewers. See how the light plays on their delicately-chargrilled flesh. See the interplay of highlights and shadow. See the inviting bowl of sweet peanut dip floating just out of focus. Oh and yes, they tasted great, too.

Silken tofu is exactly the kind of thing I want to eat when I go to a restaurant like this, something so far removed from your standard Chinese offering that it was still a topic of conversation an hour after we'd paid up and left. No description I could offer could do it justice, but try and imagine neat little cubes of the finest tofu - "silken" really is the perfect adjective - in a complex mix of sesame seeds, crispy shallots and spring onions, all bathed in rich dark soy. This was so good - so fantastically good - that we ordered spoons to scoop out every last bit of the sauce that was left at the bottom of the bowl. Kym's style themselves as a "roasting" concept restaurant, so it was a delightful surprise that the first vegetarian dish impressed as much as this.

A spring roll was very good - I particularly liked the flourish of the delicate extra rice cracker casing on the outside. If I'm being brutally honest, even the country's finest spring roll can only, in the end, be a spring roll, but I've no doubt this had just as much care and effort lavished on it as everything else on the menu.

"Three treasure" is a selection of three different roast meats - chicken, pork belly and Iberico char sui - and is another example of how Andrew Wong can lift already an even pretty complex set of techniques performed on premium products to another level. If you've had better Chinese roast chicken than this anywhere - gently soy-marinated thigh with a skin of golden, melting perfection - well I need to know about it, because I have a new obsession. Similarly, pork belly had the most impossibly delicate puffed skin, just thick enough to crunch but not chewy, with a bright-white and bouncy flesh, and Iberico char sui was glazed with- well, I can't even begin to guess, possibly honey, possibly spiced sugar, but enough to make you want to order the whole thing again as soon as it was over.

We didn't do that, though, because we had this to eat next - chicken chop, breadcrumbed and fried in the Taiwanese style, cleverly done and not too thick or greasy, with an interesting mix of deep-fried and fresh herbs on top. You get the strong impression that even with the more straightforward items - the spring roll, the chicken chop - that these are the absolute best they can be, and that any vague sense of disappointment from not enjoying a tender fried piece of breadcrumbed chicken breast is entirely the fault of the diner, not the restaurant.

French beans would probably have been better enjoyed as a side with the previous courses rather than munched through on their own as we mentally prepared ourselves for dessert. Though perfection is a word that can easily be used to described much of the food, I'm afraid the service was a rather frustrating mixture of completely absent and rather scatty - lamb buns appeared without having been ordered (we even corrected them when they repeated our order at the start of the meal; fat lot of good it seemed to do) and it took about half an hour (!) to be asked if we'd even wanted a drink at the start of the meal. The food was so good this was all almost forgiven, but it's enough to bring the score down a bit.

But I'm sure some of these service niggles will sort themselves out in the fullness of time, and eventually allow the extraordinary food coming out of the kitchens at Kym's to be given the presentation they deserve. Even with a less-than-brilliant table near the front door on the route to the loos, occasionally ignored by staff and missing some of our order, we still had a whale of a time - enough to want to see what they could do with desserts as well. So here is a Hong Kong bun, kind of a less sweet choux pastry affair with a powerfully vanilla-y custard and sweet pineapple chunks...

...and this is glazed summer berries and a sharp, smooth berry sorbet, sat in a fluffy white chocolate mousse.

And it didn't even cost all that much. £66 a head with a bottle of wine and a cocktail each is a desperately reasonable amount of money to spend for food of this standard and in this part of town, and so even with reservations about service, my recommendation of the place is hardly much qualified. In fact, it's no exaggeration to say I want to go immediately back and try all the other menu items that I've seen whizzing past my Instagram feed over the last couple of weeks. Whether I'll get a chance, well that depends on whether interest in the place remains merely "feverish" or rises to "Sushi Tetsu". But you know what, I'm going to have a damn good try.



Lizzie said...

I like the clever play of the pineapple bun with pineapple - given that the pineapple bun traditionally has never seen or been near a pineapple before.

Unknown said...

We also had the most amazing meal with scatty service last night. The aubergine small plate and the lamb buns are a most try on visit 2!

Joe Winter said...

what was that wine like?

Anonymous said...

My Chinese friends are appalled by A. Wong. They are right, Chinese cuisines like Italian are nothing when they do not respect tradition.