What makes A.Wong unique?
I’d say it’s our interpretation of China as a whole and how that comes across through the entire dining experience. The food at A.Wong is explorative and it’s constantly evolving, which is unusual for a Chinese restaurant. From a front of house perspective, it’s the personal approach that our guests experience which makes it special. The majority of our guests are regulars so we near enough know most people who come in, which is a unique thing to have nowadays in London.
Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?
It was never the original plan, in fact my Dad discouraged me from a career in the kitchen and wanted me to go to University to study something academic, which I did. It was only when my father died in my early twenties that I started doing my bit to help out in the restaurants that my parents owned at the time, and that’s when I began cooking properly and learning more about Chinese cuisine.
What’s been the inspiration behind the dishes?
The menu at A.Wong is inspired by authentic regional Chinese cuisine, the techniques and recipes I learnt during a six month working tour around China I undertook a few years ago. So many people are unaware how diverse China is as a country and how this is reflected in the food. What people eat in Hong Kong is totally different to that in Sichuan or Beijing for example, so that’s what I wanted to show people at my restaurant.
What are your favourite London restaurants?
My wife Natalie and I got to particular restaurants to experience particular dishes. For Chinese roasted barbecue meat we like a place called the Reindeer Café. Before it closed we used to love going out to have soufflé at Koffmann’s. My favourite restaurant in the world is probably Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant, Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire in Dubai or a place called The China Club in Hong Kong which specialises in Cantonese. Natalie loves The Ledbury in Notting Hill.
What beverage would you pair with your food?
Champagne is probably the best thing to pair most of our dishes with, or tea – different types work for different dishes but tea in general is great with Chinese cuisine, especially Pu-erh tea.
What do you think of London’s foodie scene? What are the next trends in food do you think?
The foodie scene in London is probably more established than anywhere in the world. It’s because London is open to all cuisines and unlike in New York, fusion is more of a dirty word here. In NY they’re very open to mixing cuisine whereas in London everyone wants to have much more of a true cultural experience. Reinterpreted Chinese cuisine is certainly an upcoming trend. Chinese cuisine has been a closed book for 3000 years and there’s so much unexplored still, but it seems as though chefs are slowly catching on.
Are there any chefs out there you’d like to collaborate with?
I’d love to collaborate with Albert Adria, and to see how he would reinterpret some of the techniques we use. I’d also love to collaborate with Pierre Koffmann, I’d love to see what we’d create together. I think if we were to do something he would be the best person to gauge what is truly delicious.
Who inspires you and why?
I never fail to get inspired when I talk to any restaurateur who has plucked up the courage to put all of their eggs in one basket and take a gamble on opening their own place – the people who have remortgage their homes and put all their money into a venture into order give themselves one opportunity. That’s a huge inspiration to me.
What is the one thing on your menu you would encourage everyone to try?
The most important thing about Chinese food is not to isolate dishes individually, so it’s very difficult to recommend a single dish. Chinese food has to be appreciated as a collective. Ordering a selection of a la carte dishes at the same time or the 10-course Taste of China tasting menu is the best way to enjoy the experience at A.Wong.
It’s Chinese New Year soon, how do you celebrate Chinese NY in your house?
“We always have the world’s latest dinner on New Year’s Eve, because it’s so important that we sit down together as a family. It’s always after the restaurant closes so it often starts at around 1pm and goes on for two to three hours . My family has always been in the restaurant industry, so we’ve always had it late. Sometimes we’ve celebrated in the restaurant, sometimes at home and we often invite other members of the team – those that don’t have any family living here – to sit down with us. It’s a hugely important celebration.”
What was the last thing you saw that made you stop and stare?
I was in the Seychelles over the Christmas period and we were having a family barbecue when suddenly a guy walked out of the sea holding an octopus and a squid. Everyone knows everyone there so I learnt that his name was ‘Casse-Casse’ which means ‘broken-broken’ in French and his nickname came about because he was in a fishing boat once when there was some kind of explosion and he got blown out of the boat and survived but broke both his legs. I was amazed by this man and also just seeing a squid and an octopus straight from the sea. I never realised that when squid comes out the sea it has a rainbow-like shimmer.
A. Wong, 70 Wilton road, Victoria, London. SW1V 1DE
T: 0207 828 8931