Wednesday, 1 December 2010

M&Z Restaurant - Shanghai in London

Regular readers will know that I'm a big fan of Shanghai cuisine. Sadly, it isn't all that common in London but through comments left on my blog and some research on Chowhound, I came across two places, Red Sun and M&Z, that serve authentic Shanghai dishes. Of the two, the latter seemed more welcoming, which is why I pitched up there recently with Les and Bob.

M&Z is named after its two co-owners, Mr M and Mr Z – one from Sichuan, the other from Shanghai. As such, the menu is a mix of their respective native cuisines with a few 'greatest hits' thrown in. I've eaten enough Sichuan over the last few years to be considered an honorary Sichuanese so I made it clear in no uncertain terms that we were only ordering Shanghai dishes gently steered my dining companions towards the Shanghai section of the menu.

The Starters
Rather bizarrely I couldn't find 小笼包 xiao long bao on the menu but the waitress said that they did serve them. These were reassuringly handmade but they could've been more delicate and soupy for my liking. That said I am a fussy-bollocks when it comes to these king of dumplings.

金陵盐水鸭 Jinling salted duck (£5.90) is also known as Nanjing salted duck and this cold starter was ball-breakingly authentic and technically spot on. But then I recalled that on the rare occasion that I've sampled this dish, I've found it too salty for my liking. It went well with the beer though.

The Mains
We probably over ordered but given the early onset of wintry weather, we managed to finish everything off.

狮子头 Meatballs with homemade sauce (£8.70) aka shizi tou or lion's head meatballs is a classic Shanghai dish. These were well made, moist and juicy and whilst cooked through (they were pre-cooked), the meatballs hadn't been properly heated through and were a little lukewarm in the middle.

红烧肉 Grandmother braised pork (£7.90) aka hong shao rou or red-cooked pork belly was the star of the evening. You can't go much wrong with pork belly and if I was to be ultra-picky, it was just a bit too sweet for my liking and it could've been cooked for a bit longer.

??田鸡 Quick fried frog in homemade sauce (£12.80) – the frogs' legs were succulent but the accompanying sauce was a nasty gloopy affair that detracted from this dish.

水晶虾仁 Quick fried prawns Shanghai style served with vinegar (£8.90) – when I've sampled this dish in China, it's a real gem that's made with fresh river prawns. Sadly, this version was made with defrosted prawns.

上海炒年糕 Stir-fried rice cake with sliced pork Shanghai style (£5.30) – sliced glutinous rice cake or niangao is a Shanghainese speciality that is sometimes eaten instead of noodles. I liked this homely dish but a few of the rice cakes were still hard.

The Dessert
酒酿圆子 Glutinous rice ball in sweet rice wine (£2.80) – I was in two minds about dessert but I decided to give it a miss. Bob didn't and I think he quite enjoyed this dessert. To be honest, I can't remember whether he did or not!

The Details
I like the small intimate dining room at M&Z, which holds around 25 diners. There's also a downstairs dining room with another 20 or so covers. The service was attentive and charming and Mr Z (or was it Mr M?) had a quick chat with us about his restaurant.

The bill with rice, tea and beer came to £80.50 or apx £27/head including 10% service. We spent £60 on food but as I stated earlier, we probably over ordered and you could get away with spending less.

The Verdict
M&Z was a bit hit and miss but I don't want to be too harsh on this restaurant. The most important thing was that I had a good night out.

Looking back, I was benchmarking M&Z against the Shanghainese restaurants that I've visited in China. This isn't entirely fair and it should be noted that my dining companions didn't share all of my criticisms.

On balance, this is somewhere that I'd like to revisit and next time I may give their Sichuan dishes a try.

M & Z on Urbanspoon

M&Z, 145 Cleveland St, London W1T 6QH (Tel 020-7387-2738)
Nearest tubes: Great Portland St, Warren St


  1. I had an absolutely terrible lunch here a few weeks ago; it took over an hour to serve us two dishes and then the rice didn't turn up, leaving our braised pork belly dish to go cold. They reportedly ran out of steamed rice, and said there were too many people there, which begs the question; why have that many seats when you can't cater for them all?

    It left a sour taste in my mouth, especially since I then had to eat my boxed up lunch at my desk.

  2. Seeing all those dishes definitely bring back memories when I was in SH too like the meatballs and salted duck.
    Quite sad that they didn't make the prawns and the frogs dish as good as it can be!
    I actually really like 酒酿圆子 but then i like anything with glutinuous rice balls in it.
    You think their sichuan dishes would be good? I have only started my sichuan cuisine journey, i should probably be looking at you for guidance!

  3. I'm curious about Shanghai cuisine as the only (knowing) exposure I've had to it is numerous tweets and online raving about XLB. All of which has made me keen to give them a go.

    However, reading Lizzie's comment above I may leave dinner here until I'm not in a rush.

  4. Those xiao long bao look pretty awful, honestly. What's with the slimey sheen?

  5. Lizzie - sorry to hear about the kitchen having a meltdown during your lunch. It happens sometimes and it's hard to give a place, a second chance if that's your first impression.

    C2S - good to hear that the food reminded you of Shanghai. The Sichuan is worth a try, as there is a quite a good selection of dishes.

    Gworm - the XLB weren't the best, and this is more of a 'main course' kind of Shanghai restaurant rather than XLB and snacks joint. BTW - one thing I forgot to mention is that this place has a fully bilingual menu, which makes ordering easy.

    A-in-L - I don't recall a slimey sheen, perhaps it was to do with the light reflecting off the XLB! The dining room was quite well lit. As per my last comment to Gworm, I don't think this place is a XLB specialist, and you're probably better off sticking to other dishes.

  6. Interesting find Mr Noodles, I should give this place a try despite your "hit and miss" experience there. Restaurants in Shanghai are on a league of their own, I don't think I had one bad meal in two weeks that we were there.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  7. I recently had a chat with the sales director from a top end hotel in Shanghai. Apart from talking about the hotel, as was his job, he was also telling me that the best food in China is in Shanghai. Really going to have to go there.
    As to M & Z, gonna give it a try. Not as good as the real deal but it is a starting point.

  8. Those XLBs look as though they could be used in the ashes - tough as hell. This has actually inspired me to go to DTF this weekend! Though I am slightly jealous of the snowy weather you guys are having.

  9. Luiz - do give it a whirl. It's not absolutely top notch but it is trying to do something different.

    Mzungu - Shanghai is a great foodie city. Although much of that is to do with its varied mix of Chinese cuisine. The indigenous cuisine is good but there is better fare to be had.

    TomEats - the XLB were a bit sad but bear in mind that these guys are Shanghai cuisine pioneer, and we should give them a bit of a break.

  10. What an interesting find Mr Noodles, even though it doesn't sound spot on.

    I find you're one of the more bearable of these London food bloggers, some of whom really boil my piss. So keep up the good work.

  11. Daily T - thanks. This place has got great potential, which is why I could forgive some of its sins. Thanks for the comps, although it doesn't do any harm for piss to be boiled every no and then!