Before I say more, I must admit that I have never been a fan of Peking Duck. Perhaps it is because I have never been served Peking Duck the way it is supposed to be prepared. As Jay Rayner writes for the Guardian
Peking duck is aromatic crispy duck’s grown-up sibling, the one that’s been to finishing school and learnt a few manners. Often, it must be ordered in advance, for this is cooking as performance: the bird must be steamed or plunged into boiling water, dried, seasoned and left to hang for 24 hours before being roasted so that the skin becomes like amber glass. And yes, it costs.
It is that last bit that holds me back from searching for great Peking Duck. It is outrageously expensive. And whether I am justified in saying so or not, it always seemed that ordering it would be showing off that one has a limitless credit limit on the plastic.
This is apparently true at a London establishment called “Imperial Treasure”. In fact, you might say that just walking in the door of Imperial Treasure is showing off that one has a limitless credit card.
The entrance is, shall we say, a bit daunting
Once inside, we see this
And here is the Treasure!
And finally, Jay’s rather humorous comment on the treasure
… here it comes and oh, what a beauty, shimmering gold and copper and bronze. Do we eat this bird or hang it on the wall? A fully toqued Chinese chef lays it on a board table-side and sets to work, first taking off a thin layer of fatless skin, presented in squares with a bowl of sugar to dip it in. We pluck away daintily with our chopsticks, and ooh and sigh, because this cost £100. The least we can do is look like we are enjoying our act of conspicuous consumption. They bring bamboo steamer baskets of hand-shaped pancakes, alongside shredded spring onions, cucumber and hoisin sauce. All is good. Here are slices of the duck, and yes, it’s delightful: soft meat, crisp skin, the liquorice, soy and caramel kick of the hoisin.
So far so good! But …
As I eat, I glance at the duck. Hurrah. There is so much more to go. The legs have barely been touched. There’s a ballast of glistening skin and meat around the arse end, and more around its back. Suddenly the chef lays down his blade, picks up the platter, bows and walks off back to the kitchen. Hang on a second. That bird is barely half-cut. I paid a ton for it. And you’re taking it away? At Min Jiang on the top floor of the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington where the dish costs £72 and is also available by the half, the meat returns in a second service, perhaps as a stir fry or in a soup. Here, we are told, it is a pancake filling and nothing else. Lord knows what happens to the rest. Fury, is a £100 half-cut duck.
There you have it. “Fury is a £100 half-cut duck! So where to go in London for a better deal? Jay offers this
The best price I’ve seen for whole Peking Duck is at Pearl Liang in London’s Paddington, which charges £38. If that doesn’t appeal there’s a lot more to divert from a menu boasting dishes from Sichuan province as well as Cantonese classics. On a recent trip a deep bowl of thinly sliced beef in a pungent broth rolling with chillies and Sichuan peppercorns was a highlight (pearlliang.co.uk).