Much was promised for this evening. SNOW. Our destination was at the Marble Arch end of Park Lane, a snowball’s throw from the bustle of Primark, Pizza Hut, MacDonald’s. A few yards, yes, but a world away in style. It. was like a scene from the old black-and-white movie of Lost Horizons (produced and directed by Frank Capra) when some frozen travellers (we had just arrived from West London) were taken to Shangri-La, an idyllic spot sheltered from the bitter cold where the most amazing food seemed to “materialize so conveniently,” as they said in the film.
Paris Hilton was amongst a flock of celebrities to attend the opening of Taman Gang in 2008. It’s the brainchild of Mitchell Tillman, son of the chairman of the British Fashion Council. It is one of the most striking but tasteful restaurants you will ever encounter. Unmistakably themed but that theming is executed with such good taste that the overall result is stunning and charming.
One is welcomed by marvellously carved wooden doors which open onto an exotic vision of mellow, fawn-coloured, etched stone walls illuminated by flickering candles. A flight of steps conveys one to a subterranean cavern of cocooning comfort, complete with statue of Buddha. Low lighting with more flickering candles, an incense stick or two and some orchids helped to reinforce the impression that one has indeed stumbled upon a long-lost marvel.
Taman Gang is a venue with two personas. It is a sumptuous restaurant and bar in the early evening, but the place is poppin’ after 11pm. It has become a well-established haunt for the smart London clubbers who appreciate its mix of music, dance, food and convenient location. I am a danger on a dance floor and I am a restaurant reviewer, not a judge on So You Think You Can Dance, so I settled for a night in with food.
Ricky Pang, the chef at Taman Gang, is a man with flair, skill and imagination. His dishes dazzle the diner with their perfect delivery and visual composition… and they taste pretty good too. There is attention to detail which is reflected in every element of the restaurant, from the wood-bound menus to the Indonesian-inspired decorations.
My guest and I settled onto a cushion-laden banquette. The table tops are of polished beaten copper which was just the right material to maintain the impression of opulent exotica. We nibbled edamame with sea salt from a miniature bamboo steamer while we waited for our other dishes to arrive.
Vegetable spring rolls with black fungus and sweet chilli sauce, and crispy aromatic duck rolls with hoi sin sauce, were the first of our selection to appear. The duck pastries were filled with meat with no sign of the usual vegetable padding. This chef does not skimp on key ingredients.
Spinach and mushroom dumplings (a vibrant green) along with prawn dumplings with chilli soy sauce, and scallop and prawn dumplings with superior soy sauce, were served in a grown-up version of the edamame steamer. Each dumpling was full of the good stuff, delicate and steamed to melting perfection.
A gyoza is perhaps more commonly known as a pot-sticker dumpling. These are made by a combination of pan-steaming and frying to produce a soft top and a lightly browned base. We enjoyed two types of gyoza, the chicken and snow pea gyoza with red vinegar, and beef and foie gras gyoza with teriyaki. Both delicious and maintaining the standard I was now expecting.
Soft-shell crab tempura with green chilli mayonnaise was a star. The batter was light and the mayo flavourful. The presentation was striking with the tempura being offered in a paper cone with crab temptingly cascading over the edge. A nice touch and another indication of care in preparation.
Aromatic duck and watermelon salad with hoi sin sauce was the first of our larger dishes. The watermelon worked surprisingly well and was cool and refreshing. This should be a signature dish from the Taman Gang meat repertoire.
Salmon sashimi salad with Asian mustard dressing is another attractive plate from chef Pang. The fish was arranged like petals of a marigold with a centre of fluffy greens. But the sea bass sashimi salad with aji pon dressing was a culinary stunner. A must-try for any fish lover. The moist flesh flaked into tender scales and was complemented by the well-chosen sauce. This was as good as you would find in any of the best bespoke fish restaurants, and tasted as exotic as it looked.
Our leisurely meal was brought to a sweet conclusion with warm chocolate pudding with green tea ice cream. This was light for a pudding. I had expected something rather rib-sticking and heavy but this soufflé was rich and moist and its association with the ice cream was a marriage made in heaven. A favorite with chocolate lovers who can console themselves with the undisputed fact that green tea does one good.
The thought of tea and the desire to linger a little longer persuaded me to indeed have a warming cuppa before the cold trek home. My peppermint leaf tea was served in a classic metal teapot with the weight of quality. The evening at Taman Gang ended as it had started, in fine fashion. This is one of the most romantic, stylish and delightful restaurants I have ever visited. Everything was as one would wish, from the sumptuous soft furnishings to the discreet efficiency of the waiting staff. The food was excellent and the memory will linger.
141 Park Lane, London W1K 7AA
[This venue is now closed]
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018