When you thought the London dining scene couldn’t possibly change any more, it somehow manages to find another way. This time it’s with the rise of the department store dining. Places such as Selfridges, Harrods and Whole Foods are now home to some of the best restaurant names around, so it came as no surprise that Debenhams on Oxford Street has decided to cash-in and I must say how pleasantly surprised I was. Launching a pan-Asian restaurant named Chi Kitchen.
The beauty of this plush new restaurant on the ground floor of Debenhams, is that is has its own entrance – meaning it can stay open after-hours like any regular restaurant. Head chef is Master Chef winner Ping Coombes and so our expectations were rather high before visiting. We kicked off proceedings with a colourful which cocktail, packed with fruits and layered with lots of alcohol. It was very refreshing and very boozy. It’s not the type of cocktail I would usually order, though I’d happily sip on this again daily if I could.
We managed to consume almost the entire menu here at Chi Kitchen and I vaguely remember lunging myself into a taxi after in my utter fullness. We started our meal light with some gorgeous slices of seared tuna with wasabi and orange ponzu sauce. Fresh, light and full of flavour. Equally as good was the special sashimi set, loaded with tuna, salmon and sweet prawns. The prawns were a little underwhelming if I’m honest (though they always are on a sashimi platter), but the salmon outweighed that. Beautifully textured and again very fresh.
Chi Kitchen is actually part of the same group that owns Mango Tree, Chai Wu and Pan Chi in Harrods. I’ve explored them all now and while they’re all fantastic, Chi Kitchen is the only one which serves quality food with real prices to match. This popcorn shrimp pictured above, which is deep-fried and covered in a wasabi mayonnaise was absolutely delicious. Costing a well priced £8.50, this same dish at Harrods is almost double the price and not nearly as good. The plate of Korean BBQ chicken wings were nice enough, though a little fiddly for me.
The nicest surprise at Chi Kitchen, was the most simplest of them all. Two flaky roti’s which fell apart at the touch that were perfect for mopping up the fragrant Malaysian curry sauce. A lovely dish for sharing and also a great filler between courses.
A well-cooked piece of sea bass with lemongrass and garlic was drizzled in a lime and seafood sauce and while not a particularly complex dish, it was well-cooked and simple enough to still impress. I also loved their take on the classic prawn laksa. A huge bowl filled to the brim with juicy prawns, tofu, vegetables, egg and noodles. Heat wise it was certainly made for the modern-day westerner in mind as It didn’t quite tickle the back of the throat – but that only meant for more slurping and more eating.
We finished up on a decadent dessert of baked green tea Alaska, which was both light and fresh at the same time. The scoop of tannic tea ice-cream at the centre became very addictive with each new mouthful and the meringue outer blow-torched to a nice golden glow.
I’m really excited about this new wave of up-market department store dining across the UK right now and it’s an area I can’t wait to see develop. While Some of the big department stores have already been serving high-end food, alongside shopping – Debenhams are following the trend, serving even better food at affordable prices. Ping Coombes has done a great job here at Chi Kitchen and when I’m next in the area shopping, I’ll most certainly pop back in.