Review – Chi Kitchen by Masterchef 2014 Winner Ping Coombes – London
Masterchef is easily one of the most popular cookery competitions on television. I am always curious to find out what happens after the final credits have finished rolling. The intensely competed Masterchef 2014 season was eventually won by former hotel manager Ping Coombes. Fast forward 2 years and Ping is now heading up the amazing Chi Kitchen in Debenhams flagship store on Oxford St and is about to publish her latest cookbook.
On a lovely spring evening I had the opportunity to visit Chi Kitchen, meet Ping Coombes herself and try some delicious pan-Asian cuisine. Located on the ground floor of Debenhams with its own street entrance as well as store access, it is a bright, light, modern restaurant surrounded on 2 sides by floor to ceiling windows and an open kitchen. Chi means ‘energy’ and the thought process in choosing the name for the restaurant was to give the customer great food and positive energy.
The menu is inspired by Ping’s background and her subsequent travels around Asia. Cuisines represented on the menu include Malaysian, Japanese and Korean to name a few, so there is bound to be something for everyone to enjoy. On a side note, one thing that I especially love are dim sum but unfortunately they are only usually served at lunchtime in Chinatown. Here though I can have dim sum all day and night long, hallelujah!
We started with a few nibbles expertly delivered by our server, complete with cascading dry ice before adjourning to our table to enjoy a taste journey around Asia. The menu offers a lot of choice without being over-complicated, from soups, sushi, robata grill, curries and so on.
We tried a variety of dishes including Ping’s famed Laksa for which even Jay Rayner has a soft spot and we all know how notoriously tricky he is to please! The prawn and shredded vegetable salad had earlier been skilfully prepared by myself under Ping’s expert tuition and is one I am definitely going to try to recreate at home. Each dish was generous in portion, colourful and tasted delicious. The freshness and quality of ingredients was evident and I love being able to watch chefs prepare my food in the open kitchen, there’s nowhere to hide from curious eyes like mine.
Desserts were simple and full of flavour. With homemade ice-creams, vanilla cheesecake and chocolate and lemongrass mousse as a starting point, these desserts are also kid-friendly. Next time I would really like to try the apple gyoza, it sounds gorgeous!
The location of Chi Kitchen is close enough to Oxford St to do your shopping yet far enough away to feel like you are out of the hubbub. Prices on the menu have small plates ranging in price from £4-6 and mains from £6 and over. The restaurant is family friendly, clean-lines and vibrant but it is the food that is the real star of the show. If you love Asian cuisine and want to enjoy a gastronomic gallivant across the continent without leaving the UK, then Ping Coombes’ arrival at Chi Kitchen is right up your street.