There‘s something epic and genteel about Waterloo Place, particularly as you stroll south past Pall Mall to St James‘s Park. The restaurants hemming in either side of the avenue are imposing Georgian structures that seem to pay homage to the high life in the way its many military statues do fallen heroes. Imperial Treasure fits neatly into this category of gastrodome. It‘s meant for the well-heeled and monied, an international venture with a reputation built on the back of the two Michelin-starred Imperial Treasure in Shanghai and its similarly celebrated outlets in Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul.
Walking up to the entrance on a Thursday evening, we immediately felt ensconced in a setting that can only be called salubrious. The Grade II-listed building has been reimagined by Parisian-based firm Studio Liaigre, who have created an overwhelmingly opulent room that blends Chinese, French and London accents and serves as the perfect platform for the technical Cantonese cuisine produced by the kitchens. There‘s a fascinating interplay between stunning original moulding painted black and neo-Modernist chandeliers, screens, seating and banquettes. Simply put, it‘s a very beautiful room. We kicked back with a Manhattan and awaited an auspiciously eight-course menu at the price of £88 per person - calibrated to bring maximum luck during the Chinese New Year.
It kicked off with an assemblage of dim sum: a crispy lobster roll, golden-fried okra and a hefty slab of foie laid atop a rectangle of bean curd. All were skilfully executed and excellent. Softshell crab with soya crumble and crispy corn-fed chicken with almond flake were down to earth and delicious. Sautéed beef tenderloin topped with shards of crispy garlic was butter-soft and sumptuous, while braised noodle with mushroom and truffle oil was pure earthy elegance. Of everything sampled, though, our favourites were the stir-fried prawn in chilli sauce - little pink curls of crustaceans immersed in a piquant, lip-prickling broth.
All in, Imperial Treasure isn‘t for the undiscerning, but if you‘re well-versed in upscale Cantonese, it‘s probably for you.
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