A Southeast Asian Feast for the Senses at Blue Jasmine

Located in the exclusive Ocean Village Marina development in Southampton, Blue Jasmine is a fine dining restaurant specialising in refined, imaginative and intricate Southeast Asian cuisine.  You would think that you were in Miami, looking out on the beautiful marina vista of luxury boats and yachts, flanked by giant cruise ships.

The Blue Jasmine concept was created and nurtured by leading Malaysian Chef Consultant, Daren Liew, who himself hails from Penang. Penang, famous for its street food is a delicious cuisine genre, born of a mix of traditional Malay, Chinese, Indian and Peranakan influences.

Daren has honed his skills in leading kitchen roles in high-end and Michelin kitchens including Hakkasan London and Duddell’s London.  Daren also has a strong high-end international hotel background, with Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental being among the five-star luxury brands he has worked for.

This wealth of experience led him to start his own consultancy and Blue Jasmine typifies the elegant, high-end offer to which he has set his bar.

So where did the inspiration for such an impressive menu come from?

Blue Jasmine follows a simple philosophy: to serve Southeast Asian gastronomy that’s been beautifully elevated to fine dining standards, always giving a nod to the finest seasonal produce. This ethos carries through every aspect of the luxurious restaurant, from the waterside location to the precision with which each of the dishes is expertly-prepared, plated and served.

Last weekend was the MDL Boat Show, hence the reason for our visit, but every year, we make a beeline for the show and always dine at Blue Jasmine – It has become a Chefs’ Forum tradition!

Everything about Blue Jasmine screams opulence, style and grace. Blending superb cuisine with stylish interiors, the waterside restaurant offers an enchanting fine dining experience.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by General Manager, William Tan. We were shown to the best seat in the house, overlooking the marina, which was full of superyachts and luxury pleasure boats and adorned with bunting and flags for The MDL Marina Boat Show – What a stunning location?!

We were shown around the restaurant and just loved the interiors; plenty of wood, marble and electric blue, marine and turquoise tones can be seen around the spacious restaurant and bar, which is split into areas boasting trendy feature lighting and a range of seating styles.

A private dining room holds a large table, so shiny it could be a mirror, comfortable armchairs and a screen for that special intimate event or celebration. The interior was designed by the owners who have done an incredible job, from the glassware and plates to the overall aesthetic, which houses a welcoming and electric and vibrant atmosphere.

We are very adventurous in terms of loving to explore new cuisine types and love nothing more than letting chefs surprise us with new dishes that we’ve never tried before.

William was delighted that we entrusted him and Executive Chef, Chris Tan to send the newest and seasonal dishes out for us to photograph and try.

We set up the camera in readiness for what was going to be the feast of a lifetime, with each dish executed and presented to perfection.

William also served a duo of fabulous signature cocktails to really give us the star treatment and truly make the evening feel like a rare ‘child-free’ special occasion:

La Buni

Michter’s Rye Whiskey, Benedictine, Drambuie, cranberry, absinthe

William expertly poured La Buni into a delicate lead crystal tumbler at the table, with smoke dancing from the decanter, like a scientific experiment, all adding a real sense of flair and  theatre.

Purple Ocean

Stolichnaya Elit vodka, butterfly jasmine cordial, prosecco

This pretty, mauve-coloured cocktail (hence the name) was elegantly served in a champagne flute, further adding class and exquisite sophistication to the light and refreshing flavour combination.

A new dish; Flamingo lotus root with chilli, garlic and liquorice was then served by William to refresh our palate for the gastronomic adventure on which we were about to embark.

The lotus root (a first for us) was lightly-pickled and tinted with delicate pink hues which lends itself to its avian name.

An amuse bouche of a trio of crispy bon bons, filled with salty egg and shrimp then followed.

The signature dish of Sarawak black pepper roasted duck and pancake then ensued and was a real showstopper in our opinion; An elevated version of the classic crispy duck, reinvented in a labour of love that came together to combine a symphony of flavours and textures.

Recommended to share between 2-4 guests, the roasted duck goes through a seventy-two-hour journey in the kitchen.  After marinating in a blend of spices, the duck air-dries using ancient methods and is then smoked in cherry wood containing natural sugars, producing a caramelised layer on the skin.

This slow process provides a delicious duck with crispy, delicate skin and succulent meat. Following the lengthy process in the kitchen, the duck is accompanied on the plate by homemade pancakes, baby cucumber, fresh leek, and a hand-crafted condiment using hawthorn jelly.

Not just your typical duck with pancakes, the Sarawak black pepper roasted duck with pancake is a world-renowned dish with a selection of Southeast Asian spices including the famous Sarawak black pepper found only in the deep forests of east Malaysia.

The texture of the duck is like something we have never experienced – It was silky smooth and incredibly lean, and the skin retained all of the beautiful flavours of the marinade. The black pepper sauce added a kick, while the sweet jelly added a sweet element. The skin was so moreish, that it completely disappeared – it was too delicious to leave. This is the best duck pancake dish that we have ever tried and we’ll definitely be back for more!

Having told William that I love beef and, food photographer ‘Mr Click UK’ loves fish, we were then treated to a trio of delectable dishes:

A new dish of ‘Nostalgia Prawn’ with a passionfruit mango jelly, apple plum sauce and maltose glaze.  These huge South African crustaceans could easily be mistaken for lobster and the flavour and texture is superior and sweeter in my opinion.  The prawns are effortlessly de-shelled by William at the table and set on the plate with the head adjacent (as we all know that is where all the flavour collects and yes… we did make sure we savoured every bit).

Also making its debut on the spring menu is Honey lemon Chilean sea bass (or Patagonia Tooth Fish as it hails from the North Atlantic) was delicate and flavoursome and happens to be one of our favourite species.  The athlete of the sea had a meaty texture and the marinade was deliciously sweet and tangy at the same time, with all the flavour notes of garlic, lemongrass and honey.  We loved the accompaniment of new season asparagus, really lifting the presentation and celebrating fabulous local produce.

Our final main was another newcomer of Black pepper sautéed diced beef tenderloin with Malbec.  This delicious medley of wok-seared beef tenderloin cubes with red onion garlic crisps, gingo nuts, Sarawak black pepper sauce and Malbec wine – All of our favourite ingredients in the one dish – Beautifully presented and highly recommended.

Our dessert was a plated selection of hand-crafted amenities that really were the perfect end to a perfect evening; The centrepiece was a cute little meringue bunny rabbit, adorned with delicate biscuit stars, marshmallow raspberries and Koppert Cress micro basil and edible flowers to contrast the berry flavours – This was lovely and light and a wonderful finale to our Southeast Asian gastronomic adventure.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank William, Chris and team for their wonderful hospitality and excellent food.  We’re already planning our next visit when we come down for the Southampton International Boat Show, on from the 13th-22nd September.

In an exciting news updates, Chef Daren Liew has now moved on to open his own restaurant in London’s Knightsbridge, which is set to open next month.

The exclusive new opening will be called Nanyang Blossom and will showcase contemporary Nanyang cuisine, which is an exciting and delicious fusion of Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine.  This will be Daren’s first restaurant that he is opening as a partnership and we’re very much looking forward to visiting him once it is open and wish him the very best of luck.

For more information on Blue Jasmine or to view the entire menu, please visit www.bluejasmine.co.uk

Photography by Carlos Farinha.