Could this be Southampton’s first Michelin star restaurant?
PUBLISHED: 14:25 04 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:46 09 September 2020
Newly opened South East Asian restaurant, Blue Jasmine, could have all the right ingredients to claim the coveted title
For any recent visitors to Ocean Village in Southampton, you may have already seen the transformation taking place in the space between the Harbour Hotel and the Co-op.
The word transformation doesn’t even begin to describe the multi-million-pound project that Xi Zhao and his wife Phoebe have undertaken over the past three years.
And, having first opened their doors in March before immediately closing them again due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the city’s first South East Asian restaurant, Blue Jasmine is now well and truly open for business.
From the concierge team at the door, to the hot towels served upon arrival, this experience is immediately akin to a 5-star hotel brasserie.
Xi and Phoebe’s sensational design choices are a feast for the senses; my eyes dart to the Hong Kong style rattan and leather bar stools, mid-century modern chairs and the most incredible resin and wood table I’ve ever seen. Money here has indeed been spent, but spent well and in the most stylish way.
I particularly loved the layered umbrella shades, and the reclaimed wooden floor in the entrance. Everything has an Asian influence, without being cliché. The result is a warm and welcoming atmosphere with a touch of glamour.
Executive Chef Daren Liew tells me he loved being involved in the design process too. Much of his inspiration coming from the crockery; inventing dishes for dishes as it were. Style is everything, but it is definitely not over substance as I discovered when the food began to arrive.
I had already been distinctly wowed by signature cocktail, the Green Asia with Akashi Tai plum sake; flavours that I just haven’t tried anywhere else before.
This set the tone, and as Daren produced the restaurant’s star attraction, the Sarawak black pepper roasted duck and pancake I knew this place was something truly special.
Having joined Blue Jasmine from his previous role as Executive Sous Chef at the Hakkasan Group, which boasts several Michelin star venues, Daren’s creativity and passion for South East Asian food is the driving force behind the ethos here.
Xi and Phoebe certainly have an eye for detail where the look of the restaurant is concerned, but it is clear that their close collaboration with Daren has meant that the food follows this theme concurrently.
The Turmeric chilli octopus transported me back to my honeymoon in Lombok, and the Crispy squid was about as moreish as a chocolate fountain; I found myself diving in several times.
Portions were generous and easily shared, leading to a wonderful dining experience with friends and family.
The benefit of lockdown to the Zhao’s was that they were able to transform the front of the restaurant in to a viewing deck overlooking the marina, a continuation of the restaurant in to an al fresco offering with luxurious seating and solar lit umbrellas, giving a whole new dimension to the venue and bringing the covers up to a potential 200.
This, in addition to the private dining room with its own lounge area and bathroom, ensures that Blue Jasmine can accommodate all requests, from intimate family celebrations to large scale business lunches.
As new restaurants go, this is most certainly one to watch. And, with their extension of the Eat out to Help out scheme carrying on in to September. I suggest you get in quick, before booking tables becomes nigh-on-impossible.
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