Why this fancy new Chinese restaurant in Merion Center blew me away
Fine oriental cuisine restaurant Blue Pavilion has been one of the most anticipated new openings in Leeds since its concept was first announced in 2021.
From the team behind Leeds favorites Blue Sakura, expectations were high. The brand promised an “unparalleled gastronomic adventure” at its £3m venue located in the Merion Centre, which also features a luxury karaoke space called K-CUBE.
Its launch party, a spectacular evening with dancers and entertainment from Samba de Janeiro to a playful red dragon, saw people from all over Yorkshire and beyond come to celebrate Chinese culture and cuisine.
The 130-cover restaurant is visually stunning, decorated with hanging cherry blossoms, lantern lights and even Chinese zodiac statues.
But it was the marble bar that caught my attention when I first walked in.
As expected, the bar remained busy throughout the evening serving beautiful cocktails from the carefully curated drinks menu, which includes a variety of wines, champagne, beers, spirits, whiskeys and sake.
My guest chose the Daiqing Pearl, a sweet, fruity cocktail made with mango, Tagarashi seasoning, salt and brown sugar, while I had the deliciously refreshing Kiwi Zhen, another fruity cocktail with orange and apple.
Appetizers arrived shortly after: a vegetarian dim sum with spinach, wild mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and edamame fritters. Each dumpling was made to perfection with soft and sticky skin while the fillings were moist and full of flavour.
The highlight of the night was the main course – a hot clay pot with tender tofu, eggplant and Japanese mushrooms. The thick sauce, thanks to the eggplant, had a slight kick to it and blended beautifully with the sides of tender broccoli in the garlic-ginger sauce and jasmine rice dish.
I was a little full from the main course, and was unfortunately unable to finish one of the restaurant’s signature desserts, a gorgeous-looking dish made with soybeans, mango and thinly sliced pineapple for garnish, but whose subtle sweet flavor complemented the other courses seamlessly.
The abundance of choices at Blue Pavilion is also what makes it such an attractive place. The menu includes soups, dim sum, small plates, salads, fish and seafood as well as several meat options, including Peking duck with caviar, Japanese wagyu shioyaki beef, and Taiwanese sanbei chicken.
A variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes are also available as well as rice, pasta and main dishes. Set menus can make choices easier and range from £45 per person to £108 per person.
But really, I had no doubt that the food at Blue Pavilion would blow me away. What amazed me was the service – it was on par with everything else we saw that evening.
From the bartenders to the receptionists, their welcoming smiles, attentive glances and cheerful chatter made the evening even more special.
The Merion Center is home to some of my favorite restaurants in the city, and from the buzz and excitement around the place the night we visited, it’s clear that the Blue Pavilion is here to stay.