The founder and head chef at London’s essential Xi’an Chinese restaurant, Wei Guirong, is opening her first solo restaurant in Bloomsbury in March.
Master Wei, whose hoardings were first spotted by critic Marina O’Loughlin and subsequently reported by Hot Dinners, marks the second restaurant from the team behind Xi’an Impression in Highbury. Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles, which opened on Commercial Street near Spitalfields last year, is owned by Wei’s business partner at Xi’an Impression, Zhang Chao; he opened that restaurant with Sichuanese head chef Li Liang in June. Wei also runs her first restaurant with her husband Song Yong.
The restaurants specialise in the cuisine of the northwestern Chinese Shaanxi province — the city of Xi’an is said to be the start of the Silk Road. Popular dishes include hand-pulled belt (biang biang) noodles with Sichuan peppercorns, hot oil, garlic, spring onions, and ground chilli; liang pi cold skin noodles made from steamed wheat starch, mixed with cucumber, chilli oil, and black vinegar; fine Qishan noodles; and Chinese flatbreads stuffed with slow-cooked flaked pork or lamb.
Master Wei will replace Cagney’s — a restaurant “with movie star photos, dishing up an eclectic menu of grills and comfort food” — at 13 Cosmo Place, near Great Ormond Street. It will be Wei’s own. In a profile of the chef who moved to London in 2008, Fuchsia Dunlop wrote last year that Wei was “an extreme rarity in the professional Chinese culinary world: a skilled female chef.”
At the time Dunlop also wrote that the chef wanted to open a restaurant in a more central location. “She would love, she says, to have the chance to serve a wider range of local specialities, but it’s hard to find skilled regional chefs in London to work with. At a recent dinner hosted by Dream of Shanghai supper club host Jason Li, [Wei] showed the range of her talents by cooking up a stunning menu of Xi’an dishes and snacks.”
“We still do the fit-outs, should be finished in early March,” Wei told Eater today.
“We will continue serving authentic Xi’an foods, and we will add more new dishes to the menu. I would like to promote Xi’an culture in my new brand, as you know this restaurant is my first solo shop, I think it is very exciting and very challenging as well.”
Hot Dinners also reports that the restaurant will open with an alcohol license; Xi’an Impression offers BYO with a corkage fee.
Correction: an earlier version of this article stated an affiliation between Xi’an Impression, Master Wei, and Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles. Wei is not involved with the latter and nor is the ownership of Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles affiliated to Master Wei.