Gouqi, St James’s

In the heart of London’s Piccadilly, a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square, is Gouqi. Pronounced ‘Goh-Jee’, the restaurant is named after the goji berry, a symbol of health and vitality in Chinese Culture.

Gouqi marks Chef Tong’s return to the London food scene following his enigmatic departure from restaurant group, Hakkasan. Under his leadership, The Hakkasan Group became the global leader in contemporary Chinese cuisine, with each of the associated outlets winning Michelin stars.

Since its opening a year ago, Gouqi has gone from strength to strength welcoming visitors from all over the world. To mark its first birthday, the upmarket Chinese eatery is offering the all-new Gouqi Afternoon Tea; an ambitious collaboration from Chef Tong and manager Alan Tang (also formerly of Hakkasan).

The Style

There are lilac curtains, sage green embroidered banquettes and reeded glass windows. The pastel tones are punctuated by deep red orchids, traditional Chinese lanterns (to ring in the new year) and a huge Chinese dragon hanging overhead in The Berri Bar. Amidst nods to more traditional decor, the restaurant has some interesting modern artwork. Curtained booths and private function rooms are also available for VIP guests and events.

To Drink

We begin with some hot tea and there’s an obligatory glass of champagne for my husband. I’m not drinking, so I instead opt for a sparkling jasmine tea that provides the celebratory feel of a glass of fizz without the booze.

To Eat

Served in an ornate golden birdcage that Alan ordered from China, The Gouqi Dragon Afternoon Tea comes dressed for the occasion. It is, after all, no ordinary tea… there are no finger sandwiches, no fairy cakes and not a buttered scone in sight! And I don’t miss them, because what we have instead, is a culinary smorgasbord of dim sum, light bites and tasty treats that represent a journey across China’s vast and diverse culinary landscape.

We begin with a selection of vibrantly coloured dim sum. Ordinarily, I don’t eat things that come in the same tonal palette as My Little Ponies, but Alan assures us that the colourings are all natural and are selected, not just for their vibrant hue, but for their flavour. Encouraged, I begin with a baby pink Crab Dumpling – a great start – it’s delicious – as is the electric blue Octopus Dumpling which is paired, quite unusually, with sweetcorn and a smattering of roe on top. Our favourite from this course is a perfectly formed little green pillow containing prawn and spinach. It is perfectly seasoned and has just the right amount of bite.

The next tier offers more warm treats and a variety of meat and fish. Salt and Pepper Squid stuffed with Prawn is a highlight- there is some nicely spiced Glazed Pork Belly and a Sesame Prawn Toast that is particularly generous with the prawn.

The third savoury tier is a collection of lighter options served cold. There is a delectable Prawn Tartare with mango, avocado and quinoa. There are ‘Drunken Chicken Rolls’ which are more delicious than they look and sound. We’re also treated to an extra portion of gold-leaf-dusted Xiao Long Bao – a Shanghai speciality soup dumpling that burst in your mouth, (and down your shirt if you’re not careful) they’re the best I’ve ever had.

Next up, is the dessert… which arrives like a nineties boyband – in a cloud of dry ice. But fear not, because it lives up to its fanfare, pastry chef Amy Stoyel has created an array of sweet treats that would cast shade on any top London hotel. Dragon’s Kiss is a blend of yuzu, dragon fruit and cherry blossom. Midnight Sun features mango, black sesame and passion fruit. But my favourite by a long way is a cinnamon and coffee mousse sandwiched with cumquat, that takes the form of a perfectly moulded Lucky Golden Dragon.

In a Nutshell

This is undoubtedly the best afternoon tea I’ve ever had and the service is impeccable. Sure, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of afternoon tea because I don’t like skipping lunch, I don’t drink caffeine after midday, I’m not a cake person and I can make a perfectly good sandwich myself at home. But this is a tea like no other… the Gouqi team have created a thoughtful and satisfying edit of their popular menu that’s sure to bring in a large portion of the afternoon tea market.

There’s a lot to like about this place. It’s fun, it’s cosy, it’s very blingy– which we Brits are often too quick to associate with a lack of substance – but Gouqi is one of those rare embodiments of the word, that also has the chutzpah to pull the theatrics off.

The Details

Afternoon tea at Gouqi is served daily from 12pm-2pm and costs £78pp. Bookings are for a minimum of 2 people and must be made at least 24 hours in advance.


25-34 Cockspur St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 5BN


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