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A Xian Discovery At Murger Hanhan, Mayfair
July 3, 2018
The rapid diversification of the London culinary scene continues apace with the opening of restaurants like Murger Han in Mayfair. Mayfair has never been a location for discovering groundbreaking, hip new restaurants and Chinese cuisine in London has long been dominated by the Cantonese cuisine due to the influx of immigrants from southern China during the communist revolution in China, so it was somewhat surprising to find a Xian-inspired restaurant opening in the heart of conservative Mayfair.
The food here is predominantly influenced by the cuisine of the northwestern part of China; so you see a lot of noodle dishes, Chinese Muslim dishes, and murger, which is the Chinese equivalent of the hamburger.
Having visited their sister branch in Euston some years back and remembering how casual the decor was, I was pleasantly surprised at how refined the decor was at their Mayfair branch. The air of relative sophistication was conveyed by the abundant use of dark brown exposed brickwork along with dark wooden frames and tables and a spotlight that places the focus firmly on the food. There are personal touches like panda chopstick holders and two life-sized terracotta warrior replicas by the entrance.
Their menu is unlike most restaurants you will see in Chinatown, there isn’t a grain of rice in sight or takeaway favourites like sweet and sour pork. They don’t have a definitive starter section, although judging by the many Chinese cognoscenti dining during our visit, they opted for the famous murgers. Instead, we went with the skewer sides which included tofu and surf clams. They also had ox tripe (another famous delicacy from the Shaanxi province), which we didn’t order not being fans of internal organs. The portions weren’t massive, but they were lathered with a mouthwateringly rich sesame sauce, which was dangerously addictive. It does say on their menu a minimum of five skewers, but they will happily allow you to mix and match and potentially order less.
The vegetable gyozas we tried were suitably hearty, although I question why they don’t call them wor tip or jiaozi as gyoza is traditionally related to Japanese cuisine. It had the right amount of oiliness to keep you warm, which is essential to survive those cold winters in the northwestern part of China.
Their biang biang noodles are the must order dish at the restaurant and a regular Instagram sensation due to the fact they can be around twelve-foot long or you can try their extra-wide noodles which can be up to four-feet wide. But are they any good you might wonder? The answer would be a resounding yes; you can taste that they are made fresh daily. The taste is soft but with some bite and quite readily soaks up the flavours from the dish like the spring onion and chilli oil version my guest ordered or the braised pork version I had with tomato and egg sauce with chilli oil.
If the number of Chinese customers at a Chinese restaurant is a sign of their authenticity and success then Murger Han must be one of the top-rated oriental restaurants in London, as I could have easily imagined myself to be in a restaurant in Xian during our visit
For more information on Murger Han see here.
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