When a taco is priced at £19 for a pair, you’d almost presume them to be painted in gold leaf, or at least to be so bloody good that you never even consider going back to Chipotle. But over the last few years of living in London, I’ve come to realise that a fancy name or expensive menu doesn’t inevitably mean that you’re in for the 5 star treatment. That my friend is hype.
I’ve started not to expect the world when I pay more than my bank account wants me to for a meal out. It’s that old saying that everyone hates… but if you don’t get your hopes up, you can only be pleasantly surprised. And I am, on many occasions. Unfortunately, this was not one of them.
This isn’t a negative review in any form. It’s more of a ‘it was great, delicious in-fact, just not extraordinary’.
The experience in question is my most recent trip to Harrods Food Hall, where even the stingiest of consumers will happily hand over a tenner for a slice of London’s 5th best carrot cake (this was not me I do not know what you are talking about).
I immediately loved the set-up; an open plan kitchen, comfy stools with bag clips and windows filled with fresh looking fish. Now just to get my hands on it.
Immediately my friend Rachel’s eyes were drawn to the insert page… Japanese tacos filled with fresh tuna, salmon and salad. What not to like? Unfortunately for us, the gluten free options on the menu were extremely limited with most meats and fish having a restrictive marinade.
With the sauce on the side, the tacos arrived. They looked the part and the sushi was as sushi is… just a little dry. Thank goodness for the two glasses of champagne we had to quench our thirst.
To our waitress’s recommendations, Rachel also ordered the salt and peppered jumbo shrimp. And boy was he a bigg’un, this guy would have given any lobster a run for his money.
He just looked plain scary… but then I’m not good with seafood that looks like it just washed up on my plate. Rachel albeit braver than me still couldn’t look him in the eye, and turned his glare towards the kitchen as she started tucking in. It looked awkward AF to eat. In the end Rachel gave up and dived in to the hot salty edamame. I didn’t blame her.
Me on the other hand, well I stuck with what I knew and it worked in my favour. I automatically looked for my go to, a selection of sashimi. The Gohn platter was a lavish spread that looked so good a woman passing by genuinely stopped to curiously stare before continuing to sit down and order ‘what she’s having’.
Half of its contents were nicely sliced yellowtail, tuna, salmon and seabass; the latter topped with orange caviar. More memorable was the meaty tuna belly and marinated eel, which was quite honestly the highlight of the meal. I’d been more excited about the two scallops, although I soon found out that they should definitely be seared and not served raw. Perhaps a personal taste but they were horribly bland compared to the intensely flavoured soft eel I’d ironically assumed that I wouldn’t like.
Even more surprising were the soft tasty crab sticks, nothing like those tough chewy flabby things I used to get in my packed lunch.
Of course I couldn’t leave Pan Chai without sampling the Harrods Special. The famously good rolls mix fresh snow crab with avocado and spicy mayo; a layer of chopped scallops, spring onion, and black and orange caviar to top.
Served with a sweet sticky sauce they were perfectly fresh and flavoursome, just as lavish and over the top as you’d expect from a sushi roll named after the world’s most luxurious department store.
Now if I’d have been in any other sushi restaurant, I’d have probably felt overtly disappointed by the first two dishes. But because it was Harrods – where we sat surrounded by the bustle of tourists and cream suited women who all looked at us stuffing sushi in our mouths with equal amounts of jealousy and awe – they kind of got away with it.
I wouldn’t come here just for the sushi. But if at some point in your life you find yourself in Harrods, in the mood for some marinated eel at £50 a platter, then pull up a stool and tuck in.
Our meal at Pan Chai was complimentary and as always, I speak the truth and nothing but.