Gouqi and their masterful display of Chinese fine dining

IT SEEMS like a lifetime ago that I enjoyed an authentic Chinese meal. Living in Hong Kong for a year and travelling across the rest of China for three months introduced my palette to a broad, colourful and exquisite taste sensation. Often, when trying to recall a story from my time in China, my memory will be led by something I ate during the experience, with the exact smells of dishes jolting back to the forefront despite it being over 8 years ago.

Admittedly, dining in China can not be replicated anywhere but China, especially considering many of my meals required me to request them in Mandarin with zero guidance but elementary lessons. The food, therefore, tasted of satisfied triumph as much as anything else.

When the London restaurant Gouqi was presented to me, therefore, I was instantly intrigued. The name alone packages up a morsel of the picturesque paths of China. Gouqi (pronounced “goji”) derives its name from Gouqi Island in the East China Sea, an abandoned village famed for its fishing and distinctive goji berry shrubs.

Tong Chee Hwee – formerly Executive Head Chef at seven-time Michelin-starred Hakkasan Group – has built a haven just off Trafalgar Square with the launch of Gouqi in Feburary 2023. Renowned for his Cantonese dishes, I was further drawn in by my memories of Hong Kong and the transformative lessons I gained in their cuisine.

From the green leather menus with gold text, to the silver duck chopstick holders, the restaurant holds an immersive capability in the interiors alone. As we were guided to our semi private curtained booth, we were further cocooned in the rich culinary efforts that Gouqi prides itself on, with dishes enveloping our table with smells and a blanket of colourful patterns. With our waiter, Jeffrey, fluttering in and out between the drapes, serving captivating energy and enthusiasm for the menu in the process, our attention was commanded.

Opening with a variety of colourful parcels of joy, otherwise known as the steamed royal dim sum platter, topped with gold leaf, caviar and shimmering sauce, the playful approach to dining was clear from the get go. I found myself on familiar ground when looking at the ingredients of each dish, but on an exciting new territory when unfolding the combination of them and the exquisite presentation. This was Chinese dining with a twist.

Entrees included Prawn Siu Mai, topped with abalone; Char-grilled Silver Cod with yellow bean sauce and passion fruit; crispy pork belly; and razor clams, each singing with salty flavour and hearty gusto and technique. The restaurant has become renowned for Chef Tong’s legendary peking duck with Oscietra caviar, which was clear to see upon our visit, with many of the tables glistening under the light from mountains of roasted duck skin.

Dessert was served on a bed of dry ice, which billowed over the edges of our table to create a white canvas for our dark chocolate, matcha and goji berry desert, named Gouqi Valley, to sit upon. Washed down with a glass of La Giuva Il Rientro with bold oaky notes and a smooth cherry finish, and the magic of the restaurant was enriched.

I may not be able to pop to China on a day that I experience a craving for Chinese food, but Gouqi will be there waiting for me, ready to guide me through a culinary journey that is unmatched in the city of London.

by Lily Rimmer

Gouqi: 25-34 Cockspur St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 5BN

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