Normally a stickler for ‘all you can eat’ Chinese Buffets, I thought it was time to experience an authentic Cantonese restaurant at Shikumen, Shepherd's Bush.
Housed within the grand Dorsett Hotel, the very polished entrance gave the first impression of fine quality and contemporary vision drawn from both Eastern and Western influences. The main room is a mix of shiny surfaces, clean white clothed neatly aligned tables and wooden bars dividing the restaurant into semi-private dining sections with Chinese art dotted around the walls. I couldn’t help but think that the only thing we were missing was a mini stream flowing in the background. The open planned layout and earthy colour scheme added an air of tranquility inviting us to stay for as long as we wanted; and believe me with the amount of food to come we needed all the time in the world.
Atmosphere & Clientele
As per cultural etiquette, all our waiters were highly attentive, refreshingly polite yet reserved to a point – not intrusive, but you knew they were on hand to help. Upon struggling rather embarrassingly with my chopsticks, I had never been so happy to see a fork brought over to me from a very lovely waiter who had noticed my mini ordeal - to me service is everything and truly he was a shiny star.
Dining mid-week the venue was fairly quiet to begin with, a mix of businessmen/women dining alone and families most likely having some food before spending the night at the hotel were our fellow diners for the evening.
The Food & Drink
We know our waiter showed real star quality, but he was about to come in competition with the food to keep that title. Ordering from the A La Carte menu we were recommended the Legendary Roasted Peking Duck (£26.90). But first to tantalize our palettes was a steamed Dim Sum Platter (£9.30); underneath the steamed bamboo lid there was an array of green and yellow parcels filled with a mouthwatering mix of prawns, seafood and vegetables that showed finesse and craft to a T. Dim Sum is an art, and Shikumen showed style, substance and flavour alike.
Shortly after our first course, the chef arrived at our table and started carving the half roasted duck, the skin was soon offered to us with a small side dish of icing sugar. Intrigued we both mumbled, and soon found dipping the duck skin in the sugar was ‘Legendary’, and real kick starter to the duck pancakes about to come. With its carving theatrics and bold flavour, the duck was a stand-out of the night alongside our bottle of humble Sauvignon Blanc.
Ending the evening feeling thoroughly looked after, pleasantly tipsy from our bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and happily full, my first experience of traditional Cantonese cuisine was ticked off my list, and Shikumen had set incredibly high standards throughout.