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db Eats: Mei Ume

db’s food fiend, Lucy Shaw, heads to Mei Ume at The Four Seasons for dim sum sealed with gold leaf, almond-laced plum saké and sensational sweet and sour pork.

The concept: Having opened will less fanfare than its neighbour, six Michelin-starred chef Anne Sophie Pic’s debut London venture, La Dame de Pic, Mei Ume at the new Four Seasons hotel in Trinity Square, is the more informal of the two restaurants, and in my opinion, the better of the two.

Meaning ‘plum blossom’ in Chinese and Japanese, Mei Ume offers the best of both worlds, serving modern twists on dishes from China and Japan as their own entities rather than fusing the two, meaning greedy diners can enjoy highlights from both cuisines depending on their tastes.

The steamed dim sum quartet

The Four Seasons has cleverly put together a dream team of chefs to head up the project, with head chef Tony Truong coming by way of dim sum specialist Royal China, while sushi chef Mun Seok Choi was cherry picked from Saké No Hana and dim sum chef Liang Kian Cheung plucked from Yauatcha.

The combined experience and expertise is evident in both the presentation and the precision of the dishes.

The décor: While La Dame de Pic feels a bit like a maze with its myriad of private booths, by contrast, Mei Ume is a bright open space dominated by ornate grey Corinthian columns.

Red seats and cushions tip their hat to China where scarlet is considered lucky, while silver velvet banquettes, oriental vases and decorative screens add to the opulence.

At each end of the room, which makes the most of its high ceilings, are a pair of silk screen prints featuring plum blossom in abundance, while other artworks depict Chinese banqueting scenes to get you in the mood for a feast.

The food: Mei Ume has one of those menus you want to order everything from. It was genuinely hard to whittle down my desires to a modest amount of food. But our waitress actively encouraged us to order a few more dishes, which we gobbled down greedily.

It’s worth choosing a smattering of Chinese and Japanese delights. The majority of plates are designed to be shared and portions are generous.

Spicy tuna rolls with truffle karashi and Parmesan

Among the highlights was the yellowtail carpaccio with truffle ponzu ­– the iridescent slivers of fish are bathed for long enough in their truffle ponzu bath that your senses are whacked with earthy truffle and mouth-puckering citrus with an aerating coriander finish.

Dim sum fanatics should order the steamed platter, if only for its prettiness, the four pieces wrapped like luxury Christmas presents sealed with gold leaf.

Also on point were the crispy duck rolls. Thick, fat and crunchy, they were rammed with rich, tender duck meat offering a pleasing savoury hit,

The only slight misses were the deep fried squid, which had an odd almost corn-like coating and lacked the crispy crunch I was expecting, and the wok fried king prawns with black truffle sauce, which were served slightly cold and promised more than they delivered for their £27 price tag.

Signature dishes: The star of the show at Mei Ume is the whole Peking duck, which is ceremoniously presented to you at your table by a chef in a big white hat who hacks away at it in front of your eyes – perhaps not one to order if there are any vegetarians on your table.

Once off the bone, the crispy duck is served two ways: in pancakes with all the trimmings and in a salad laced with lemongrass and plum dressing. My highlight, however, was the sweet and sour Ibérico pork with cherries and sun dried tomatoes; a dish I’ll dream about on cold winter nights.

Sweet and sour Ibérico pork with cherries and sun dried tomatoes

Encased in feather-light crunchy batter, the sauce was thick, sticky and sweet in an indulgent rather than a cloying way, the addition of cherries adding a welcome fruity dimension.

So much more sophisticated than the sweet and sour dishes you get from your local Chinese takeaway, this guilty pleasure was sensational and as addictive as crack.

Also umissable are the spicy tuna rolls with truffle karashi. Encased in Parmesan flakes, the tasty little morsels had an appealing fiery underbelly.

Even the veggies are noteworthy – a simple dish of buttery, crunchy, sautéed asparagus with samphire and ginger was a joy to eat, punctuating the indulgence with some much-needed greenery.

The drinks: Devised by The Four Seasons’ director of wine, Jan Konetski, the drinks list goes big on saké, which the sommeliers (quite rightly) push. Our first was fresh and floral and paired a treat with our fish dishes.

The real find of the night was a plum saké by Akashi-Tai called Shiruame Ginjo Umeshu, which was a pretty pale pink and tasted like a liquid Bakewell tart with its notes of cherry and almond.

Iced mochi lollies

On the wine front, by the glass delights include Charles Heidsieck’s prestige cuvée, Blanc de Millenaires 1995 at £39 a pop, a golden riot of hazlenuts, almonds and lemon curd.

A 2014 Meursault by Domaine Henri Germain offered precision and minerality, while Spanish renegade Daniel Jimenez Landi’s 2013 biodynamic Garnacha – Las Uvas de la Ira from Mentrida – was wonderfully wild and alive with juicy raspberry and strawberry notes.

Who to know: If he’s there, super somm Jan Konetski is worth seeking out for wine and saké advice.

Don’t leave without: Saving room for dessert. The iced mochi lollipops are great fun. We liked the yuzu best of the four flavours: yuzu, matcha, mango and coconut.

Last word: The atmosphere at Mei Ume is fun and friendly, leading to a buzzy room on my visit on a Tuesday night populated with groups of girlfriends, families and the odd business dinner.

It’s hard to find fault in Mei Ume. While there are numerous London restaurants serving top notch Japanese food, it’s hard to come by Chinese food of this calibre in the capital. The only catch is that the prices are high, though this isn’t entirely surprising given its setting within The Four Seasons.

So expect to pay £85 for a whole Peking duck, £22 for the sweet and sour pork and £18 for the spicy tuna rolls. The prices aren’t outrageous though – the dim sum platter costs just £9 and the crispy duck rolls £6. I left as stuffed as a pillow and happy as a laughing Buddha.

Mei Ume at The Four Seasons, 10 Trinity Square, London EC3N 4AJ

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