Some things in life are only worth shelling out for if you know what you’re doing. Take skiing. Your average holiday is going to cost at least a couple of grand, so the smart person hits a dry slope beforehand. Or, illicit drugs. That stuff’s expensive. Apparently. So you wouldn’t just buy it off any old schmo on the street, would you?
Here - via a snow plough turn, of sorts - we come to Imperial Treasure. This exorbitantly priced Chinese restaurant in St James’s is a place where you need to know what you’re doing. By that, we mean you need to read this review and follow our lead.
Imperial Treasure’s room is not dissimilar to a Dyson hoover, in that it sucks in all atmosphere for a high price. With that in mind, it doesn’t matter whether you’re here for a business meal, or you’re pretending to be 007 before he gets down to business, there’s only one thing to think about: the food. And despite the lack of atmosphere, there is some energy at Imperial Treasure. More specifically, there’s Big Dumpling Energy.
The lunchtime dim sum here is possibly the best in London. Sesame prawn toast isn’t a mere fishy paste, but a whole sodding prawn stuck in a little roll that’s bread-jazzled in sesame seeds. A portion of three venison puffs is similarly delightful, and with both at £9 a pop, you can come with two others and get one of each. We’re not saying it’s great value but considering the quality, it’s okay. As for the rest, the cheung fun is the finest we’ve had in the city, and at under a tenner for six pieces it’s also a great split. The same goes for the xiao long bao: three soup dumplings with Rizla-thin wrappers, filled with broth and minced pork. They’re delicious. If you don’t have to share them, don’t. They’re worth every penny.
Dim sum aside, peking duck is the reason to come to Imperial Treasure. The signature duck is split into two courses: pancakes and the boney remains with a choice of sauce. It’s the first part of this you’ll be most interested in. The duck arrives looking all Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast, and after the carving ceremony, tastes even better than it looks. Crispy and juicy, sweet and meaty. No matter how many ducks you’ve had in your life, you may never have had one quite as good as this. That said, the second course is a disappointing sequel, so it’s worth asking whether you can have an extensive first. We haven’t because, well, one does not go for many £100 ducks. That’s 400 Freddos, people.
Once you’ve been involved in the duck that costs a tonne, and some daytime dumplings that will enter your dreams, the menu goes around 80 items deep. The thing is, some crispy fish skin - an undeniably great bar snack - costs £16, and a plate of sweet and sour pork that doesn’t taste much better than a £6 carton, costs £22. The money isn’t a problem if the food justifies it, but too much of it doesn’t. If you do want to explore other options, the honey glazed char siu pork is a good place to start. It’s quite something. But really, that’s an anomaly. Because if you’ve got the money and the energy, then there are only two things to be interested in at Imperial Treasure.
All the best things in life flirt with danger, and these boiling hot soup dumplings are no different. Make sure you pierce this guy and slurp some broth out, otherwise you’ll have a bit of a situation. A situation that’s like a game of hot potato, but in your mouth. Either way, you won’t care, because these are delicious and essential.
You’re not going to want to share these guys. They’re crispy and slippery and full of fat chewy bits of prawn. Frankly, if we had a spare £54 lying about, we’d eat 30 of these at once. Otherwise it’s around a tenner for six.
These four are available for dinner as well and they’re extremely tasty. Though, if we’re being honest, we’d invest in more cheung fun instead.
Look at the guys, just look at them. They kind of look like rabbits wearing a sesame fur coat. Only they’re massive, soft, chewy prawns hibernating in sesame-covered roll. They’re great.
Granted, this fella isn’t the biggest looker, but he does taste quite good. The sandy looking stuff is actually a soya crumble. That said, there are better ways to spend £16.
This is a three stage affair. 1) Crispy glazed skin to dip into sugar. This is an excellent start. 2) The carving of the duck and the rolling of the pancakes. You’ll want this bit to last forever. 3) The removal of the duck to be prepared in a sauce of your choice. This is less good, and will make you nostalgic for the good times (stages 1 and 2).
This is magnificent pork. It glistens and shines like the trophy it should win for its porky deliciousness. Admittedly, it costs £22 for a portion we would politely call ‘restrained’. But it’s really very good.
These gold-covered and custard-filled buns aren’t as good as they look.