Many a time I have visited Regent’s Park to see friends, and the London Zoo to see family (in both the aquarium and chimpanzee section), and each time, I have walked past an intriguing floating pagoda within the cumberland basin. This curious structure plays home to Feng Shang Princess, a chinese restaurant at the tip of Regent’s Park, and after many fleeting glances, curiosity finally got the better of us. The chicken, lamb, and duck are halal here, but the beef is not. Alcohol is served.
As per usual, Steak smelt chicken satay in the restaurant before she even glanced at the menu, and thus, they formed our starter. The rest of our order included malaysian-style chicken curry, chicken-fried noodles, steamed rice and a half-portion of crispy aromatic duck. Poultry, poultry, and more poultry. In hindsight I realised that I wanted to try some of their seafood, but sadly when I do see food, I order without thinking. (Stupid cliche pun intended. Forgive me and move on).
The chicken satay arrived in rather small a size, and sadly, were rather bland and unexciting. They were also quite undercooked, and possessed an unpleasant, rubbery texture. The peanut sauce that accompanied them was also weak and lacking in presence.
We continued to burn through rubber with the malaysian-style chicken curry, which also contained low quality chicken with an elastic texture. Despite this, the curry itself consisted of a thick gravy with a pleasant aroma and a strong flavour which we couldn’t quite put our finger on.
Luckily, the crispy aromatic duck wasn’t made of rubber. (Nor was it yellow or accompanied by bath water). As it arrived with a basket of steamed pancakes, a plate of cucumbers and spring onions, and a bowl of plum sauce, I rubbed my hands with delight. The waiter offered to shred the duck for me, but I opted to shred it myself for my own amusement. I don’t care if you or Steak think I am a child, there’s no fun in having your meat cut for you. The duck had a deep-fried, crispy skin, with soft and well-cooked meat within that shredded with ease. Whilst a little dry, the duck offered an enjoyable, savoury flavour.
The plum sauce that accompanied the duck had a very thick and grainy consistency, and delivered a strong tang to palate. Whilst it was a suitable condiment that complemented the duck well, a little more sweetness, combined with a slightly sharper sour punch would really have perfected both the sauce itself, and the dish as a whole. Meanwhile, the steamed pancakes were soft and wonderfully light, and a combination of the pancakes, duck, plum sauce, cucumbers and spring onions delivered an interesting range of contrasting textures and tastes to the tongue. (Whilst I don’t usually play with my food, it’s also pretty good fun constructing your own pancakes).
Along with the crispy duck, the chicken-fried noodles also served to redeem Feng Shang somewhat. Whilst the chicken, yet again, had a rubbery texture, it was more enjoyable in the chicken-fried noodles as they were cut into much finer pieces. With a strong dosage of soya sauce, the noodles delivered a savoury kick with a touch of that delicately greasy texture that you expect and wish to find in chinese noodles.
Value For Money: 3/5
Starters at Feng Shang range from £7-£14, Mains range anywhere from £12-£65, whilst sides range in the £4-£10 range. Whilst certain items are more than reasonable in terms of price, quality and portion size, (i.e half a portion of crispy aromatic duck along with the sides, costs £22.00), others are rather overpriced, (i.e the malaysian-style chicken curry, which costs around £10 for a medium-sized, rubber-filled portion). Location aside, the food overall is fairly average in terms of quality and presence, with the poor quality of the chicken in particular blowing quite a significant hole in Feng Shang’s hull. It’s unlikely to blow a hole in your bank account, but it’s unlikely to leave your mental accountant satisfied either.
Staff at Feng Shang are friendly and helpful, albeit, a little aloof to your presence. Though to be fair, I employ the same strategy with my own friends and family. Service is also very quick, and you can expect each course to arrive in quick succession, unless like myself, you eat at a rate of 40 chews per bite and have hamstring-sized pterygoid muscles as a result.
I know what you’re thinking. “It’s a restuarant. On a floating pagoda. In the cumberland basin. In regent’s park. What more do you bloody want?”
But, whilst Feng Shang has an attractive and interesting exterior face, it’s not quite as inspiring on the inside. (Then again, neither am I. Exterior’s pretty hideous too). Whilst there are a few interesting ornaments here and there, the interior decor as a whole is rather drab and dreary with it’s best days evidently far behind it. The restuarant is filled with plain wooden tables covered with bland tablecloths and awkwardly-protruding speakers, whilst the red carpet screams “HELP I BELONG IN AN INDIAN RESTAURANT FROM THE 80’s”. It may be a little more attractive during the night, (when everything lights up like a neon nightclub on ecstasy), but either way, you’d expect a little more investment interiorly for a restaurant with as unique a setting as this. To be brutally honest, the “.5” in the decor score is simply due to the novel “restaurant-floating-on-water” factor.
The decor aside, the venue has a fair amount of seating space both upstairs and downstairs, and is an easy bus-ride or walk from Camden Town or Great Portland Street stations. Finding parking in the area may be a little tricky.
It happened again. Everyone heard I was visiting Feng Shang and promptly evacuated. Well, I suppose I do significantly increase the risk of the entire restaurant capsizing. The restaurant was fairly empty when we dined, but despite this, no tumbleweed crossed our path. Feng Shang has a pretty calm and relaxing atmosphere – even with the romantic songs in the background, which are cheesier than a cheesy cheese factory made entirely out of cheese. However, you don’t quite feel the novel floating-restaurant factor quite as much as you’d expect. Maybe they should have a giant turbine in the water to rock the boat a little bit. At least enough to make everyone else sea-sick so you can eat their food and run.
Feng Shang Princess has a mismatched exterior and interior appearance, a rocky inconsistency in the value and calibre of its food, an efficient yet detached service and a comfortable ambience. All in all, a very mixed bag that’s left me with a very mixed set of feelings. Ultimately, I was expecting a lot more from a restaurant with such a unique foundation, and one that has probably been established for a very long time (judging from the decor). It’s probably a place you’d like to visit for the sake of novelty, but I’d certainly advise that you lower your expectations before doing so. Whilst I’d be tempted to give it another shot if I was in the area, Feng Shang left me with significantly less enthusiasm at the end of my meal than I did before visiting, and that is perhaps a solemn and succinct summary of the dining experience. In other words, I made you read an entire review that could have been summarised by “Okay, but disappointing”. Sorry.
Feng Shang Princess
Southern Star Cumberland Basin,
Prince Albert Road,
London NW1 7SS
Telephone: 020 7485 8137