London – Who would have guessed that one of the most popular must-eat restaurant in London is Four Seasons, where hordes of Asians visit the restaurant for their popular Roast Duck. Not just any ducks here, with the restaurant picking the fatter-than-usual Irish ducks to give diners a more sinful and definitely more enticing oriental meal. Four Seasons is just one of the popular trio of Chinese restaurants at the Bayswater district where diners flock to satisfy their cravings often, with Gold Mine and New Fortune Cookie rounding up the top favourites. In fact, the popularity of the restaurants and the Irish Duck has swept back to Asia, with Four Seasons having opened outlets in Bangkok and Singapore since. Many of the Chinese restaurants in Singapore have also started introducing Irish duck as a staple item on the menu in recent years.
Question is, which of these three restaurants in London does the best Roast Duck? This has been debated and written by many of our fellow foodies as well, and for the Pandas, the choice is clear. The only restaurant we will return to in our next visit will definitely be Gold Mine, and here’s why.
Gold Mine (金山楼）
Like most Chinese restaurants in London, their selections stretched from Hong Kong roast meats to stir-fried-whatever-you-can-think-of to the weekend Dim Sum, and of course the comforting staples including Egg Fried Rice and Singapore-Styled Bee Hoon can be found on the menu too. While the other dishes here were worthy of our limited appetite, you must go for the Roast Duck here. Retailing at £14.80 for half a duck, you can have it with or without the bones. If you do not quite mind the hassle of handling the duck meats with bones, go for this option as the bone-in meats has a much stronger flavours coming from the spices which the duck was roasted with.
The winning formula of the duck here comes from its well-seasoned and tender meats, and a balance sweet dark sauce. Despite being the largest of the 3 restaurants, Gold Mine enjoyed the longest queue during our visit at meal times – a testament of its popularity. Be prepared to queue longer during the peak weekend meal hours, although you are almost sure to be rewarded with some really enjoyable roast duck and possibly the friendliest service amongst the three restaurants too.
Four Seasons （文兴酒家）
Possibly the more famous amongst the three, with other branches in London and globally – Bangkok and Singapore, Four Seasons was once the crowd’s favourite of the trio. To savour their ducks, you can also head over to their other 3 locations in London, just avoid the peak meal hours where queues start forming at the various branches.
If any, the two key reasons why Four Seasons seems to be just a shadow of its previous self are the bland sauce and the horrible service. On the sauce, this usually sweet dark sauce came across slightly bland, not helped by the Roast Ducks lacking the usual spice. The service here left us waiting for our bill for a good 10 minutes despite an almost empty restaurant as the sole cashier was busy setting tables for the dinner service, not starting till an hour later. Half a duck goes for £13.80 at Four Seasons.
New Fortune Cookie （枫林小菜馆）
Having read raving reviews of this restaurant from fellow foodies, with some having named this their favourite amongst the trio, we were excited to check out New Fortune Cookie. Perhaps with this, we visited the restaurant with high expectations, and in fact, was the first amongst the three we visited in this trip to London. It was unfortunately not the best we had. The meats were less tender comparatively, with the sweetest dark sauce which was slightly of an overkill for me. The lack of small tables mean small groups having to share tables, and a second level seating is only opened for reservations and frequent diners.
Having said that, the Roast Duck here is priced the cheapest, where you can enjoy half a duck at just £10.50. During peak dining hours, the queue here seemed the shortest – which is a good thing if time is precious for a tourist in London.
Frankly, I have always been surprised by the crowds of Singaporeans raving about the London Roast Ducks despite many neither being an ardent fan of the local Singapore rendition of Roast Ducks, nor even the Soy Braised Duck. The winning formula in London seems to be the fatty Irish Ducks, and of course, the palatable Sweet Dark Sauce which enhances the overall flavours well, balancing the otherwise greasy meats.
If your cravings for these Irish Ducks strike you before your next trip to London, you can always visit the Four Seasons restaurant at Capitol Piazza – although we would warn you about the lack of consistency here. Otherwise, head over to the local spin-offs including London Fat Duck and Royal London Duck. Or perhaps you should give your local neighbourhood Duck Rice store another chance, there are some gems awaiting you at your nearest Hawker Centre and Coffee-shops!
Gold Mine – 102 Queensway, Bayswater, London W2 3RR, UK | Daily 12noon to 11pm
Four Seasons – 84 Queensway, Bayswater, London W2 3RL, UK | Daily 12noon to 11.30pm
New Fortune Cookie – 1 Queensway, Bayswater, London W2 4QJ, UK | Daily 12noon to 11.30pm
Ranted by The Rantee