After an eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant, what does one of the city’s most universally admired chefs do next?
Andrew Wong, Eater London’s chef of the year in 2017, answers this very particular question with Kym’s, his newly-opened restaurant in the City’s Bloomberg Arcade development. Sharing real estate with lauded udon noodle specialists Koya City, and the raucous bravado of Brigadiers, the Indian army mess tavern by the ever influential JKS Restaurants group, this is big-ticket. Where A. Wong in Victoria, evolved into one of the city’s best Chinese restaurants, principally through the immaculate execution of modern dim sum, at Kym’s there is expectation: both culinary and financial.
This restaurant is a two-part paean: one, to the historic art and craft of Chinese roasted meats; two, to the established Chinese immigrant chefs and restaurateurs who have mapped the terrain of Chinese cookery in London: the terrain that allows a restaurant like Kym’s to open with such anticipation. In July, Wong told Eater London that:
Like so much of Chinese gastronomy, it’ll be deceptively simple food with a big emphasis on the ancient craft of Chinese ‘roasting’ meats — and that includes poaching [chicken with soya].
For me though, it’s also about celebrating and paying my respects to the contribution the Chinese community has had over the past 100 years on British gastronomy. I think we’ve all evolved and I want to offer casual Chinese food that is something away from what guests have come to expect.
The restaurant, through some apparently contrived branding efforts, was originally going to be called ‘Madame Wong’. That was rejected in favour of Kym’s, named for the restaurant Wong’s parents opened in Pimlico in 1985 and where he worked as a teenager; the premises that became A. Wong in 2012. His honesty and ambition, combined with fierce devotion to detail, is what makes Kym’s what it is: a restaurant that honours the technical sophistication of a meat cookery tradition some 2,500 years old with an oven that at first melted kitchen the floor, not just to adhere to that tradition, but to serve food optimised for the City customer. A customer who in theory has less time to spend in a restaurant. Thus, minimal preparation à la minute; quality achieved through the application of long processes ahead of time; fast-turnaround for high volume. The third of those, Wong admits, is largely in debt to Chris Miller of White Rabbit, the fund which in Kym’s sees an opportunity for roll-out — ‘the Dishoom for Chinese food’ as it was originally described.
It’s true that Kym’s is one of the most anticipated London openings of 2018. With anticipation left behind, and execution in the spotlight, Wong’s critical acclaim rightly precedes him. Here’s a closer look at how his vision translates to a new style of restaurant, where promising early signs indicate that the chef’s self-assuredness will guard against second album syndrome.