Samyukta Nair: "we're looking to diversify what we do"

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Samyukta Nair on her Mayfair restaurant Mimi Mei Fair

Related tags: Samyukta Nair, MiMi Mei Fair, Jamavar, Indian cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Chefs, Mayfair

The restaurateur behind Mayfair's Jamavar and Bombay Bustle has moved into new territory with high-end Chinese restaurant MiMi Mei Fair, and she's not stopping there.

Why branch branch out into Chinese cuisine? ​Chinese cuisine is my second favourite cuisine after Indian cuisine. There are many parallels to Indian food. It's a very diverse cuisine and some of the flavours and ingredients are similar. It's also a cuisine that's very popular in Indian. I was also exposed to Chinese restaurants when I was growing up in New York and I also spent some time in China as part of my studies at The University of Nottingham, so it's a cuisine I am familiar with.

While there be any nods to it being an Indian owned restaurant?

We've largely stayed away from that. There is of course a genre of cooking that combines Indian and Chinese cooking but Mimi Mei Fair is an experience that references old world China, and is inspired by the different Chinese provinces.

There's no shortage of top-end Chinese restaurants in London - what's MiMi Mei Mei Fair's USP? 

We've come at it from a more feminine angel. High-end Chinese restaurants can be quite masculine. It's also a lot more intimate as a space with lots of different rooms. The project is also on a relatively small scale so we're able to offer something highly sophisticated, in terms of both the food and the atmosphere.

Tell us about your menu format

We'll offer both a la carte and a tasting menu. The a la carte structure is quite traditional, we have appetisers, soups and then move onto larger dishes that are split into fish, meat and vegetables. We also have a selection of special dishes: a whole Peking-style duck that's carved at table and three dishes that utilise live lobster as well as seafood delicacies including abalone and sea cucumber. Other dishes include char siu made with Norfolk Black Pork; crispy golden langoustine with Périgord truffle; steamed dover sole with pickled chilli; and crispy mandarin beef with sour hawthorn berries. Alongside the £88 tasting menu and a la carte we are also offering a lunch and pre-theatre menu and a dim sum menu. We're encouraging people to eat everything family style because - much like Indian food - Chinese food is best enjoyed shared. The pricing is competitive for the area, but MiMi Mei Fair is a luxury restaurant. It will be closer to our more high-end restaurant Jamavar in cost to our more casual restaurant Bombay Bustle. 

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Tell us about the space

The restaurant is within two Georgian townhouses that have been combined (the site was most recently Matsya). Spread over three floors, it's an intimate, homely space with rooms named to evoke the feeling of being in someone's house, such as The Parlour and The Library. We went people to experience a sense of discovery as they navigate the restaurant, each room is very different in terms of design style but we've gone for a maximalist approach. Nearly everything has been made bespoke for the site, and there are even some items from mine and my mother's own collection of artworks and antiques.

Who is your chef?

Peter Ho. I've known him for a very long time as he used to work for my family's former business (the India-headquartered Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts). He is a very experienced chef having worked for restaurants including Lei Garden in Singapore, My Humble House in Beijing, and London’s own Hakkasan as chef de cuisine. He has been cooking Chinese food since he was 17. It's difficult to think of someone more qualified for the role.

How are you finding Mayfair at the moment?

There's certainly an appetite to dine out again. The Government's decision to take a lot of countries off the Amber List has really helped. But I have to acknowledge the shortage of manpower. It's been very tough to keep our restaurants fully staffed and this opening has further added to that. pressure. Serving regional Chinese and Indian cuisine at a high level means we need experienced chefs that really know the cuisine, which makes things more complex. 

You recently formed a new parent company for the group, what does that mean for the business?

LSL Capital is a nod to the original garment business my grandfather founded. My family exited Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts in 2019 so it's a fresh start in some respects and also signals our commitment to the London market. We want to create more experiences in the capital and will look to find partners to help us do just do that and we're also looking to diversify what we do in terms of new cuisine types. 

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