Thursday, May 28, 2009

Eat Chinese: Mandarin Kitchen, Queensway

I have lived in the UK now for nearly 23 years. That's a pretty long time but what’s probably even more astonishing is that my family and I have been visiting the same restaurant consistently over those last 23 years. That restaurant is the Mandarin Kitchen.

As you probably know already, my cousin is over from the States and she loves Mandarin Kitchen. After all, she is from New York and they can’t get any decent Chinese food over there (!). So, after a day watching my beloved Surrey triumph over Middlesex in the 20/20 cup, dinner was arranged.

One thing about going to the same place for many many years is that you get acquainted with the staff. There's nothing nicer than waltzing into a restaurant and being treated like you are about to sit down at your own dining table. Although this place holds a lot of nostalgia for me and my family, it’s pretty grotty. Having gone through one refurbishment to my memory, its toilets are renowned for being pretty nasty.

Either way, we are here for the food. First up is a plate of jellyfish (basically tastes like chewing rubber bands with a hint of sesame in my opinion), deep fried chilli and pepper baby squid and half an aromatic duck. The squid is definitely a family favourite and is very competently cooked. It’s still tender with a light and crispy batter, with great flavourings of chilli and garlic. A definite crowd pleaser.

The duck here is pretty much how it should be, crispy and tasty bits of skin complementing juicy chunks of flesh wrapped in a steamed pancake with spring onions and cucumber (no hoi sin sauce for me). Wasn't fantastic on this particular occasion but is often good enough to blow my socks off.

Next up, something that it’s famous for, Lobster Noodles. Rumour has it that Mandarin Kitchen goes through more lobsters than any other restaurant in London, and this really comes as no surprise to me. As dear as they are, nearly every table had a plate of Lobster Noodles adorning it! I’m not the biggest fan of lobster (or seafood in general) but am quite happy to tuck into the ginger and spring onion noodles bathing in the gravy of the lobster. A nice if slightly overrated dish.

After this, it’s pretty hard to follow up with mains, but Mandarin Kitchen has a very competent kitchen and churns out a whole array of very appetising dishes. This time round, we had some chicken with dried chilli and onion and some tofu to go with my dad’s salt fish fried rice and greens of some description. I was experiencing quite a food hangover at this stage but managed to have a few pieces of the delicious chicken and some tofu, which is a feat in itself.

Mandarin Kitchen is never going to aspire to Michelin standards (it needs to sort its toilet out for starters) but does very competent Chinese food. In Queensway and Bayswater you are spoiled for choice when it comes to oriental eateries, but for some reason, my parents keep coming to this one. The BBC is coming to the end of this series of the "Great British Menu" where they are looking to give the returning troops a "taste of home". If it was up to me, I would love somebody to knock me up a plate of squid and some duck!

Mandarin Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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