Since the early 70s, many Singaporeans, Malaysians & Hongkongers come to London to seek out what they termed as "the best roast duck in the world". This was also chronicled by Singapore-born author, Tan Kok Seng, in volume 3 of his autobiographical trilogy which comprised "Son of Singapore" (1972), "Man of Malaysia" (1974) and "Eye on the World" (1983). He talked about this London restaurant which served the best-tasting roast duck in the world - I read that book in 1983 itself and can't quite recall the name of the restaurant now. Anyhoo ... I thought I'd do a taste-test at three of Queensway's Chinese roast duck spots this afternoon:
Lunch spot #1: Four Seasons Restaurant (no relation to that hoity-toity hotel chain, of course). This ever-popular, always-crowded restaurant is the de facto "numero uno" of roast duck spots in Queensway. Regulars include Malaysian sultans, Thai students, assorted tourists from Singapore/HK/etc, locals who "know their roast duck" and perhaps anyone & everyone who'd heard of this place. Service was harried & wait-staff will unhesitantly ignore your upraised hand to attract attention as they rushed past your table. The roast duck was delicious, albeit slightly heavy hand with the 5-spice. Texture of the duck was moist, no or little fat under the roasted skin which was papery-thin and peeled off easily. The chilli dip was pretty unnecessary, unless you want a little spike of flavor. I liked the slightly-sweet soy dressing on the generous portion of off-the-bone duck-breast meat resting on a bed of Chinese white cabbage (Napa cabbage), atop steamed white rice. The soy dressing-flavored rice was absolutely delicious. Great roast duck - better than anything we have in Singapore or Malaysia today. Can't compare with HK ones as I haven't tried that many roast duck places in HK.
Lunch spot #2: Magic Wok Restaurant. Roast duck skin was paler but crispier, also served the same way as Four Seasons (which I think is the de rigeur method of serving roast duck amongst Chinese restaurants in Queensway) - resting on sliced Napa cabbage atop white rice. Little soy dressing, not sweetish as Four Seasons'. Very good duck-meat texture - moist and tender. Layers of fat underneath crispy, glossy skin (more golden-brown at Magic Wok, whllst deeper-brown colored at Four Seasons). I had to remove the fat by scraping them off before consuming the thin brown top layer. Chilli dip was on the salty side. Service was friendly, polite & top-notch - I did note that it's quieter at Magic Wok though.
Lunch-spot #3: Gold MIne - purportedly helmed by some ex-staff from Four Seasons. Fabulously crisp, golden-brown skin. Also thick layers of fat underneath the crisp part of the skin, but these were easily removed. Texture was the best of the 3 restaurants I tried. Service was prompt, friendly & efficient. I must admit that I enjoyed my lunch at Gold Mine most of all - no mean feat considering that it was my 3rd spot, and my tastebuds were beginning to have this sated effect from consuming the same fatty, oily dish in copious amounts in 3 separate restaurants - all within a space of a bit over an hour! I liked Gold Mine's duck-meat texture the most - it was tender, with hardly any chewy bits detected (which occurred in Four Seasons & Magic Wok's versions). I also liked Gold Mine's soy dressing best - it's the sweetest amongst the 3 places I tried and I personally have a bit of a sweet tooth. Gold Mine's chilli dip - more like Chinese XO sauce, with the addition of dried shrimps (maybe also some dried scallops?) put it miles ahead of Magic Wok & Four Seasons' chilli dips.
Sorry to have to miss other similar restaurants there - Kam Tong, Hung Tao, etc. I don't think I can manage > 3 roast duck lunches in a row. My rating of the restaurants I tried today - stricly IMO only:
#1 Gold Mine
#2 Four Seasons
#3 Magic Wok
100 Queensway, London W2, GB
102 Queensway, London W2 3RR, GB
84 Queensway, London W2, GB