Shanghai Noir scallop

Review: Shanghai Noir

Review: Shanghai Noir

A wanderlust-fuelled feast for the stomach… and the imagination. By Helen Down

What happens when you inject a little piece of Chinatown into an old fire station in the rarely-visited territory between Westminster and Victoria? Shanghai Noir, that’s what.

A brand new opening, Shanghai Noir, with its deep teal walls and oriental iconography, transports you back to the achingly glamorous 1920s. An Indo-Chinese brasserie, your senses will spin around Asia as soon as you arrive. Not least because to get to Shanghai Noir on the lower floor, you first have to walk through Indian restaurant, Yaatra. Being led through a different restaurant into a subterranean secret makes Shanghai Noir feel tantalisingly 007.

For anyone not familiar with Indo-Chinese dining – a food concept that is apparently taking the US by storm – it fuses Indian and Chinese (via Thailand, if our green papaya and mango salad was anything to go by), with a bent towards the traditional comfort food of Indian migrants. This translates as Chinese classics with an Indian twist: five-spiced beef with wild mushroom bao; paneer garlic cream with mushroom, and spatchcock chicken in a Glenmorangie fire sauce featuring the world’s hottest chilli, Bhot Jolakhiya.

We were instantly seduced by the Instagram-worthy Firecracker Smoking Dragon cocktail (and smoke, it certainly did). Szechuan pepper infused gin, Campari, vermouth, orange bitters, mango and soda; it soothed our souls like a gentle Asian negroni. But its USP is its presentation – golden liquid poured from a long glass dragon in a swirling cloud of dry ice. And all served with blossom petals that evoke Japan. Such drama feels in keeping with the spy-like 1920s decadence.

Palettes readied, we savoured crackers with prawn pickle (it works!) before going in on black bean scallops, which were firm and juicy but in a sauce that was perhaps just five percent too sweet for yours truly. Luckily, the papaya salad, with its zingy lime freshness, was the perfect antidote. And the chilli paneer was dangerously addictive.

Next up, we were graced with short rib beef that disintegrated at the gentlest prod of a chopstick. My steamed sea bream was equally as tender and flavourful, thanks to a delicate filling of ginger and spring onion. Dots of crispy chilli oil created a wonderful texture contrast. A side dish of garlicky charred pak choi wedges made the perfect accompaniment.

We rounded off with lychee pannacotta, which rivalled the smoking dragon for dramatic presentation, and a surprisingly refreshing mango pudding, rich with sunshine and Asian sweetness. What a whistle stop tour of China to India, and everything in between.

Old Westminster Fire Station, 4 Greycoat Place, Westminster, London, SW1P 1SB