Going for dinner at a department store might not sounds enticing.
But Harrods isn’t any old department store.
Nestled on the 5th floor of the maze-like Knightsbridge shopping spot is Chai Wu, a Chinese restaurant serving up a range of fusion-style treats to fuel a hard day of spending.
It was 7pm on a Friday night and I’d set a date there with an old school friend who I hadn’t seen for a number of years.
We’d had a hard day at work, not spending unfortunately, but we were in need of pepping up nonetheless.
Walking into Chai Wu you’re instantly transported away from the madness of Harrods to a shrine-like calmness, with stacks of sushi acting as the shiny alter. Slick black surfaces mixed with strips of polished natural wood and soft lighting make for an inviting mix.
While it was a funny hour of the day the place was pretty busy, with couples and a large Asian family happily munching away in one corner.
We were shown to a table by a friendly waitress and settled into our large leather chairs. There was music playing but we could hear ourselves speak clearly. The perfect spot for dinner conversation to unfurl.
I’d completely forgotten we were inside a department store as we navigated out way through the drinks and food menus.
Chai Wu has a wide range of Asian-inspired dishes on offer. From sushi to salt and pepper squid to green tea chocolate truffles.
On the drinks front there are a plethora of libations to lubricate your soul, from sake to fine wine to very quaffable espresso martinis.
But the one thing I recommend when it comes to food, if overwhelmed by the choice, is the duck pancakes.
Our lovely waitress from Italy raved about them with a glint in her eye. We were sold. And when the meal was served we both realised what she meant.
Unlike the run-of-the-mill duck pancakes served on a candle-heated steal tray at your local Chinese, at Chai Wu the chef actually comes and dissects the juicy bird in front of you.
Our chef for the evening skillfully sliced succulent slithers of meat before us before artistically arranging the wedges on a plate. Pink flesh with a fatty crust roused us to snap apart our chopsticks.
Along with traditional pancakes, Chai Wu also serves its duck with buns, which are soft and springy to the touch.
But the cherry on top is the selection of sauces you get to play with.
Along with the standard plum sauce there is a salt and pepper dip, a sugary condiment and a moreish truffle and garlic concoction.
The pancakes were divine and we quickly rolled our way through the lot.
Luckily we’d ordered a smattering of other dishes and we turned our attention to these.
A side of broccoli, some special fried rice with scallops and shrimp made for the perfect props.
We also shared a meaty portion of sea bass (which came served with a champagne sauce, of course) with some sweet and sour chicken, which was a little bready for me but my friend Stephanie loved the popcorn-shaped balls.
Before the duck pancake joy distracted us we’d started the meal with some delicately battered salt and pepper squid, caviar-topped scallop sushi and the poshest sausage rolls you could ever get; wagyu beef in puff pastry topped with a dash of gold leaf.
We’d been nibbling away for 2 hours and the store was getting ready to close.
I realised they were cleaning around us and the hoover was waiting in the wings.
It was probably time to leave.
Before we left, we made out way through a selection of desserts, with pistachio, green tea and vanilla ice cream quickly spooned up. We didn’t give the iced trio a chance to melt.
Like Harrods, Chai Wu goes that one step further.
It’s not every day you have to check your teeth for gold leaf after having a Chinese. And your bank balance for that matter…