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Pan Chai is the kind of restaurant you could walk by a dozen times without realising it’s there. Tucked away in a corner of Harrods’s bakery and patisserie hall, there’s certainly enough going on around it for this subtle sushi bar to disappear among the constant blur of action in London’s most famous department store.
But once you’ve eaten at Pan Chai, it’s unlikely you’ll ever forget it.
Until earlier this year, I didn’t even realise that Harrods is home to a number of restaurants, some of them compact versions of London chains and others unique to the department store, but it seems it’s now almost as famous for its foodie hotspots as it is for its designer splurge potential.
I had my first taste of Harrods’s foodie offerings back in February when I tried Pan Chai’s sister restaurant, Mango Tree, which serves a range of traditional and unique Thai dishes. You can read all about that right here.
Visiting Pan Chai in Harrods
Pan Chai sits directly opposite Mango Tree, and the set up is almost identical: diners sit at a walk-up bar which curves around the open-plan kitchen. With only around 20 seats in total, it’s a pretty intimate experience that quickly makes you forget you’re in the middle of a busy department store.
I visited Pan Chai a couple of weeks ago to see if it could live up to the fantastic meal I had at Mango Tree back in February. Once again, the hustle and bustle of the food hall crowds quickly disappeared as soon as we sat down and opened up our menus.
Speaking of menus… On Pan Chai’s menu you’ll find mostly Japanese sushi and sashimi dishes – the luxury kind, of course, because this is Harrods – with a few Malaysian dishes such as beef rendang if you’re not a fan of fish.
Brendan and I decided to do what I normally do and ordered the house special: the “Harrods Special” sushi rolls. Their cryptic name doesn’t give you any clue as to just how delicious they are; these spicy mayonnaise rolls are filled with fresh snow crab and avocado, and topped with chopped seared scallops, spring onions, and orange and black caviar. Is your mouth watering yet? At £24.50 per plate, they’re not the cheapest rolls on the menu but they were the most affordable ones we ordered – and also the best. Don’t you love it when that happens?
The other two sushi rolls we tried – banzai rolls with lobster tempura (£36.50) and Wagyu beef maki rolls with cucumber, chives and asparagus (£38) – were also super delicious but not quite as delicious as the Harrods Special rolls. It’s no surprise that the banzai and Wagyu beef are two of Pan Chai’s bestsellers, but they lacked the effortless simplicity that won us over with the Special rolls.
Finally, we took a lucky dip with a random platter choice: the omekase plater (which, in Japanese cuisine, is a platter of dishes chosen by the chef). Our chef served up a plate of tuna, salmon and whitebait sashimi, some California rolls and salmon, whitebait and tuna nigiri. Mmmm. The rolls and nigiri were just as tasty as expected, but simplicity won again as it was the sashimi that stole the show. And that sashimi was incredible. If you love Japanese food and appreciate quality fish, I bet you’ll have a hard time finding better sashimi in London.
The okemase platter costs £48 and includes 9 pieces of sashimi, 5 pieces of sushi and 4 sushi rolls. That price might have made you sweat a little but, if you’re good at maths, you may have worked out that that equals about £2.67 per piece of sushi – which, considering this is Harrods, isn’t really bad at all. Given that sushi is always going to be a little on the pricey side, it’s not too hard to justify a little splurge.
But no matter what your budget, my advice would be the same: if you only try one thing, make it the sashimi. And if you only go to one restaurant for sashimi, go to Pan Chai.
Getting to Pan Chai
Pan Chai can be found within the buzzing ground floor food halls in Harrods, right next to Knightsbridge station. It’s right by the gold Egyptian escalator, too, so you can walk off your meal with a fancy Instagram story and a cheeky (window) shopping session.