Harrods is, undoubtedly, one of my favourite department stores in the world. It’s exuberant and over the top and it has everything I could ever want in one spot. I remember, when family friends of ours would come from abroad, it was always one of my top spots to take them to. I love the grandeur, the range, the service and the gorgeous building itself.
And, of course, being a foodie, the Harrods food hall is my favourite part! I could easily spend an hour just looking at the range – their cheese selection is one of my favourites, and the selection of juicy Medjool dates, glossy and succulent, could easily be seen in a mall in Dubai! It’s brazen, in the best possible way, with a lively atmosphere.
I was so excited to finally try Pan Chai, which seems to have become a bit of a blogger institution. So many of my favourite bloggers have written glowing reviews about it and given that this was our first date night in absolutely forever, I was so looking forward to it. I’d even done my hair, put on a full face of makeup, and wore a new dress for the occasion for a change!
It was a Friday night and Harrods was heaving with people – the sale is on so I can imagine that’s likely why! The glossy green curves of Pan Chai’s bar were striking – it’s an inviting spot to rest your feet following a shopping haul for sure! The design is sleek and inviting.
Offering just 22 leather-clad seats, around the chef’s bar, Pan Chai has the potential for quite intimate and personalised service, however, this isn’t one for a quiet meal, for obvious reasons! Fortunately, we were prepared for that and we love lively dining environments. I’ve always loved dining at a chef’s bar. I did it at StreetXO not too long ago and I always say that at three of my favourite London restaurants (Bocca di Lupo, Barrafina and the Palomar) if you’re seated in front of the kitchen, perched on the bar, you’ve undoubtedly gained the best seats in the house. I love to see the chefs working their magic, to have the dishes arrive in front of our eyes, still sizzling. The Doc arrived and we kicked off the evening with a well deserved Singha beer for him, and for me, a flute of Moet Chandon Brut. We were off to a good start!
The menu is inspired by flavours from Pan Asian cuisines, including those from Japan, Korea and Malaysia. It’s a truly inviting menu with a wide range of options! Given that the Doc had been on call for weeks, we really looking forward to kicking back and relaxing together over some of our favourite foods. We’d recently had some beautiful Pan Asian meals at Nobu and Zengo in Dubai, and we were excited to try Pan Chai’s versions. Unfortunately it didn’t go quite as planned…
Negitoro sushi, eight tuna belly maki rolls lined with mayonnaise and spring onions.
The highlight of the meal, the duck and watermelon salad of aromatic crispy duck, fresh watermelon and cashew nuts – whilst it didn’t look pretty, it was definitely tasty, largely due to the very juicy, sweet watermelon.
Tofu “steak”, deep fried and served with teriyaki sauce on a bed of asparagus
Chicken medallions in Korean chilli oil, fruit juice, herbs and spicy bulgogi sauce
Wagyu Beef Maki Rolls, with chives, orange caviar and sweetened soya
Of these, I think the clear winner was the duck and watermelon salad. The duck was perfectly cooked, with succulent and crisp parts, sweet juicy watermelon and cut through with the crunch of the cashews. Whilst not much to look at, it was a tasty option and a very generous portion!
The kitchen seemed to be beginning to wind down for the evening, when we arrived at 7.30pm, as after taking our orders they stopped taking orders for any hot dishes. Our food all arrived within moments of each other dish and ideally, it would be nice if this was spaced out better. Even before we had tried a piece of one dish, the next dish had arrived. Usually, this would be fine for me, but as you’re seated on a bar there really is no space for so many dishes at once. It got so bad that there was literally zero space for our chicken dish and so the waitress ended up taking one dish back to the kitchen to keep warm. I couldn’t help but think this was an easy thing for them to plan and get right. Not that it’s an excuse but the restaurant was clearly busy, and it seemed like the waitresses were overloaded, which could be why the service wasn’t quite as I had expected.
Unfortunately, we were really disappointed by the Waygu maki rolls, which had looked beautiful and were meant to be succulent and flavourful, but just didn’t deliver. The texture of the filling was far too dense and reminiscent of a reheated roast dinner – they were incredibly heavy and after trying one I’m sad to say we had to leave the lot. They just didn’t feel right and weren’t enjoyable at all. Usually priced at £38 for a portion, we were expecting something unusual and delicious. Well, unusual it was, delicious it definitely was not.
when the chef asked what we thought of the food, I was honest and told him we’d enjoyed the salad, it was all beautifully presented but that he could take the wagyu rolls away as we were finished with them. They were too dense and that the rest of the food had been “okay”. He started talking at us (rather than to us) at the top of his voice, loudly implying we didn’t know what good sushi tasted like as the Wagyu Maki rolls were one of the restaurant’s bestsellers. He started quoting how many they sold each day rather than addressing that ours clearly had an overcooked filling. I mean, that’s all very well but why ask if you aren’t prepared for an honest answer? It was so embarrassing and I was mortified at the poor customer service. We exchanged embarrassed looks with the Mum and Son sitting beside us. I can’t imagine they’d have liked that for ambience either! Regardless, we said our polite thank yous and went for a rummage around the Harrods sale to cheer us up until closing time!
If I were to go again, I’d be keen to try the soft shell crab tempura, which looked great, and the Chilean Sea Bass which, on the menu, sounds delightful and delicate. Unfortunately, for us, our meal at Pan Chai didn’t hit the mark but I’m hopeful that our poor experience was just a one-off. Being in a luxurious place like Harrods, and with such high prices, diners understandably come with certain expectations. Whilst issues with the food can be forgiven, I think customer service is essential in any restaurant, and especially one with prices as steep as these and so I’d hope nobody else has to experience what we did. But who knows? Maybe they were just having a bad day. For their sake, I hope so! Based on my experience, I’d be wrong to pretend I’d recommend Pan Chai. We came home and filled up on tea and biscuits, as we were unfortunately still a bit peckish (classy Friday date night hey!) and all in all we did have a lovely evening together.
I guess if you’re ever in the mood for people-watching you could do worse than Pan Chai’s duck and watermelon salad and a chilled glass of delicious champagne, but I wouldn’t pick it for a date night. That said, the people-watching is fantastic, the concept is great and if the majority of reviews are right, you’ll have a great time. Besides, you’re right there in Harrods, one of my favourite stores in the world, a literal treasure chest of fun and the food-haul and endless options for shoes are sure to put a smile on your face, even if the meal doesn’t!
Pan Chai’s website can be found here.
I was invited as a guest of Pan Chai and my meal was complimentary, but clearly, my thoughts are my own!