Sarah and I were recently invited by the wonderful DV8 Fulham to visit Mao Tai, New Kings Road, to do a cocktail review for the magazine. Having previously clocked the fabulous sculpted bar, and slightly outrageous yet elegant goose-feathered ceiling lamps, I leapt at the chance to sample a little chinois sophistication. For her part, Sarah (who had already visited) couldn't wait to return.
Close as it is to Parsons Green, with its triangle of hearty British pubs, Mao Tai fills an important gap in the New Kings Road market - that for a beautifully appointed, date-friendly watering hole and restaurant. Refitted 5 years ago to include a beautiful 1940s Shanghai inspired bar, hand sculpted in Bath to include a fusion of European baroque (the candle holders were inspired by tombs in France) and pan-Asian motifs, Mao Tai has been a neighbourhood favourite for the last 30 years. Run by a wonderful local couple, Mark and Pat (it was Pat who designed the sumptuous interior), Mao Tai offers Pan Asian cuisine, both at the restaurant and as small sharing plates at the bar, a beautifully lavish private dining room, and possibly the largest selection of spirits that I have ever seen in a bar of that size!
At the bar, bartender Daniel explained that the emphasis is on bringing back some of that Old World Shanghai glamour, producing clean, classic drinks with a modern twist, using a selection of high quality spirits. For example, we sampled the Aviation cocktail, which was a firm favourite amongst the bohemian arts set (think Hemingway) at the Ritz, Paris in the 1920s. Clean, sharp and elegant, the Aviation takes gin as its base, and is sweetened with lime and maraschino cherries prepared on site. We also tried the sweet, but warming and reassuringly girl-friendly New York Sour, which takes Bourbon as its foundation, topping it up with Claret and maraschino. Continuing the classic cocktail theme we had a Gin 'n' Fizz (light and refreshing - made from Plymouth gin, elderflower and an artfully curled slither of cucumber) and the 'Spritz', which is made of Aperol (a slightly weaker version of Campari) and prosecco, and which is amazingly zingy and energising, with a perfect balance of sweet and sour flavours.
As mentioned before, Mao Tai stocks a huge range of spirits, many from lesser-known boutique producers. My Lychee Martini was made with gorgeous rose-infused Pinky vodka, and gin-lover Sarah was treated to a tasting session including Brockman's (blackberry infused) gin, UK staple Fifty Pounds Gin and Dry Fly, which is produced in a small Washington distillery.
I love Asian cuisine, so I couldn't wait to get stuck into some of the sharing platters served at the bar. Like the opulent yet elegant surroundings, the dishes were exquisitely presented, and bloody delicious. We tucked into Indian Ocean Tuna Rolls, Mediterranean Seabass Sashimi, Rock Shrimp Tempura, lightly battered chilli Salt n Pepper Squid and Crab and Ginger Vietnamese Rolls. I can honestly say they all totally hit the mark, and for those looking for a great date venue, cocktails and bar snacks at Mao Tai is guaranteed to impress (hint hint boyfriends)! If you're looking for a sophisticated place to catch up with the Ladies, you couldn't pick somewhere better for that either. All round - 5 stars. No wonder this place has been a such a firm local favourite for the past 30 years.