Restaurant Review: Yu and You, Blackburn

Yu and You Restaurant – My Chinese is Tso Tso

Blackburn’s curiously named Yu and You restaurant was intriguingly Gordon Ramsay’s best UK Chinese Restaurant in 2010. Perhaps I fell prey to overly high expectations, but this accolade now seems outlandish.

Despite a rural Blackburn location, a bouncer worryingly patrolled Yu and You’s door. Guests are invited to have a drink prepared by a ‘cocktail mixologist’, begging the question – what other kinds of mixologists exist? The Yu and You Cocktail Menu was apparently a product of six years of creativity; concerning, as the vast majority were long-established classics. The only ‘Oriental’ element of ‘Yu and You Oriental Old Fashioned’ was the barman.

Moving passed the stylish, polished black bar, the restaurant atmosphere became non-existent with a sterile, silent dining room. Harsh, stark lighting shined directly on our faces rather than the table. Chairs awkwardly cramped back against each other, while swathes of space to the side remained unused.

Yu & You started promisingly with the Hot & Sour Soup – the benchmark of any Chinese restaurant. It was certainly hot, but also comforting and complex. The sound of the sizzling dipped prawn cracker greatly lifted my spirits. The Char Siu pork element was eye-wateringly sweet, but certainly enjoyable.

Charlie Yu’s Chicken Curry followed, being indistinguishable from chip shop curry sauce. Considering this was the house speciality, it was genuinely shocking. My partner’s ‘Tai Po Crispy Chicken’ was the kind of fatty, salty dish my partner was trying to avoid.

Dessert at Yu and You produced the novel Strawberry Samosas. Presumably not particularly Chinese, but intriguing against an otherwise barren list. This delightful dish had a pleasing contrast of temperatures, with light, golden, crispy pastry – it provided a fun, novel talking point, while delivering on flavour.

Service by Yu & You’s manager Victoria was warm and welcoming. After my partner spilt a drink, she graciously cleaned it up, generously providing a replacement. The rest of the young team were polite but often distracted and unintuitive: although Victoria graciously commanded the dining room, it was otherwise difficult to attract attention.

Yu and You beat Mayfair’s Kai Restaurant, winning Gordon Ramsay’s approval, with ‘Wok seared 8oz Wagyu beef with sweet soya, lime, garlic and ginger’ at £65. Similarly, I can only assume Yu and You’s rave TripAdvisor reviews followed their premium duck, seafood and beef dishes – around £27 each (inc the required sides). They could well be stunning but seems expensive given the location and environment.

Yu and You Review Summary

Atmosphere 3/10    Cost 3/10    Quality 5/10   Service 6/10

Yu and You Restaurant Blackburn Review

Excellent hot & sour soup

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Restaurant Review: China City Restaurant (Jin Li), Leicester Square

China City Restaurant – Don’t Canton Them

The imaginatively named China City Restaurant benefited from a great central location, and with a recent Groupon Voucher offered excellent value for money given the expensive area.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere was rather stern. Despite being busy, the restaurant was almost silent, with fellow diners choosing to read each other’s minds rather than engage in traditional forms conversation. The servers echoed this stoicism, which exaggerated the unnecessarily serious environment.

We were warned before being allowed to sit that we had to pay the optional service charge – as though I had a badge warning “I don’t tip!”. Why I needed to pay someone £1.80 to open a screw top bottle of wine was never explained. London after all never misses an opportunity to take every penny possible.

Regarding the food, the portions were generous and satisfying. The food arrived quickly and was served pleasingly hot. However, this was the typical too: salty, sweet, gloopy Chinese food you get everywhere except probably China. Everything for some reason was shiny. Unfortunately, the obligatory sculpted carrot didn’t do enough to refine any of the dishes. For anyone stumbling out of Soho seeking stodgy sustenance, China City Restaurant is an option. For anyone else, the abundance of other Chinese restaurants in the vicinity will probably prove more fruitful.

China City Review Summary

Atmosphere 2/10    Cost 8/10    Quality 4/10    Service 4/10

*Since this review was first published, China City Restaurant is unfortunately no longer with us –   hence the lack of link*

Restaurant Review: Tang KTV, Preston

Tang Restaurant- Never Left Wanton More

I want to like Chinese food, I really do. However, I can’t be cheaply seduced by salt, sugar and bright colours forever. Mercifully, Tang Preston fought against stereotypically luminous Chinese cuisine, with authentic dishes that thankfully did without fortune cookies.

Tang Preston’s vivacious manager Rob brought the restaurant to life: his omnipresence ensured diners were kept happy and his polite team organised. Rob happily elaborated on what was a potentially intimidating menu, covering Dim Sum, Cantonese and Sichuan cuisines. Perhaps the Chicken Feet or Fish Heads won’t tempt, but take his advice and break free from self-imposed Sweet N Sour Chicken prison. Tang Preston had a broader ingredient list than any local Chinese restaurant – don’t waste the opportunity for exploration

Regarding atmosphere, Tang Preston had a sparse philosophy to interior design. The PowerPoint menu presentation seemed unnecessary. Call me old fashioned, but I can do without rotating images of stomach and intestines – a humble Specials Board would suffice. More importantly, Tang Preston was spotlessly clean and populated by the local Chinese contingent, suggesting an authentic kitchen.

The Hot & Sour Soup was rich and thick, a little gloopy, but I found that strangely comforting. Is dipping prawn crackers into soup poor etiquette? Regardless, I was a Pavlovian dog to the sound of them sensually sizzling. It was packed with vinegary, peppery flavours that did me good. However, the vegetables were flaccid, not crunchy; thus, the dish lacked texture.

The Deep Fried Aubergines with their fluffy centres and crispy skins were so moreish they should be criminalised. The salty, chilli crumby bits were fiercely fought over and the best thing in the restaurant. They made a great alternative to chips, although weren’t any healthier.

The oddly named Char Siu Honey Roast were porky clouds, without an equivalent in British cuisine. They had a spongecake-like texture, punctuated by bits of bacon. The aubergines I could’ve eaten until my heart stopped or the restaurant closed. However, the Char Siu were deceptively filling, and prohibitively sweet to stop me from wanting more than a couple.

As with everything at Tang Preston, the Duck Chow Mein was very generously proportioned. I would have liked to have traded a bit more duck for loads fewer noodles, as there was a daunting amount. The duck itself was well cooked, while the Chow Mein had a good selection of lightly cooked vegetables Peking peeking out. Like a Thai Massage, I found the dish oily, but certainly enjoyable. It provided 3,000% of my RDA of MSG, but hey, it was the weekend. A Chicken Curry dish didn’t fare quite so well, offering more salt than chicken.

If anyone eats: Soup, Dim Sum, the main course and then asks for the dessert menu, lock them up as a menace to society. Tang Preston can’t sell more than two hundred desserts a year – there just aren’t enough morbidly obese people in waddling distance. Tang Preston is a small, industrious restaurant, providing warm welcomes, generous portions, an interesting menu in a casual atmosphere – try it out.

Tang Review Summary

Atmosphere 5/10    Cost 9/10    Quality 7/10    Service 8/10

Tang Preston Restaurant Review

Hot & Sour Soup – tastes better than it looks

Tang Preston Restaurant Review

Char Siu Honey Roast

Tang Preston Restaurant Review

Deep Fried Chilli Aubergines

Tang Preston Restaurant Review

An XXL Chow Mein

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Restaurant Review: Peachy Keens, Manchester

Peachy Keens – Keenly Priced & Far From Peachy

First impressions of the bizarrely named Peachy Keens were positive: bright, clean, but juvenile. With over thirty starters, the variety on offer was quite astounding; yet, restaurants trying to be everything become nothing – Peachy Keens Manchester was no exception. I self-righteously tittered at the giant ‘ORIENTAL’ neon sign looming over the school canteenesque dining room, and queried the authenticity of ‘Fish Fingers’ listed under ‘Italian Starters’. This cacophony of branding strangled any potential atmosphere although may appeal to a younger demographic.

Peachy Keens Manchester’s food was disappointing; although, given the exceptionally frugal price, expectations should have been no higher than ‘edible’. The assortment of sushi all tasted the same e.g. of nothing. The Salad Bar was OK but punctuated by tasteless olives and unpleasant cheese. Peachy Keens Manchester’s hot wings were predictably far from hot, rendering themselves redundant. The “Grill Section” masqueraded as a legitimate piece of kitchen equipment – it warmed grey lumps up – rather than cooking steaks to order. My steak was impossible to cut, let alone digest by a human. The Lamb Rogan Josh was ungodly,  smelling like Satan’s left over takeaway; after I was too terrified to return for hot food.

Peachy Keens Manchester’ desserts were either sickly or luminous – the pastry chef made Ronald McDonald look like Michel Roux. Things resembling Aftershock were avoided and ice creams were a psychedelic dripping mess; although, neatly formed miniature cheesecakes were surprisingly edible and in endless supply.

I was amicably greeted, seated and warmly bid farewell to; but, the Peachy Keens Manchester staff were impressively morose. However, the team were organised, with plates quickly materialising and disappearing when required.

Peachy Keens Manchester offered all-you-can-eat food for the price of a nearby swanky cocktail: nobody can ask for better value. Furthermore, Peachy Keens Manchester provided the ultimate in variety and convenience, perfect for young families or groups with differing dietary requirements. Unfortunately, the food ranged from acceptable to offensive.

Peachy Keens Review Summary

Atmosphere 3/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 2/10    Service 4/10

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Restaurant Review: Face Chinese Restaurant, Preston

Face Chinese – Needs A Little Lift

Following the flurry of fabulous reviews, I popped into the peculiarly named Face restaurant with high expectations. I was ardently greeted by an older Chinese gentleman, who I suspected of harbouring great esoteric wisdom, but modestly kept the exchange to a warm welcome.

I cunningly sneaked in just before the Early Bird Menu deadline, which provided excellent value for money. With such reasonable prices, Face would need to serve Sweet N’ Sour E-Coli for me not to return.

First impressions were that Face was bright and clean – a shiny face if you will. Ultimately it was all very predictable. There was nothing wrong with the decor, but Preston City Centre cried out for something less ubiquitous. Unfortunately, the atmosphere was drowned by the surrounding sea of empty tables. However, a flurry of ladies proceeded to glide around, providing the most efficient and polite service imaginable.

Like Hong Kong itself, the menu was exciting and diverse. Mercifully, unlike every other Lancashire Chinese restaurant, the menu didn’t overwhelm. It contained ingredients not found anywhere except Nigella Lawson’s pantry, so Face provided a good excuse to eat out. Lesser known Hong Kong dishes such as Frog’s Legs created a talking point if nothing else. Dishes like Lotus Seed Buns, Blackbean Chicken Feet and Beancurd Rolls gave the impression of authenticity. That said, the Deep Fried Mussels felt like a Scotsman’s idea of pescetarianism.

The piping hot food materialised quickly but consisted primarily of salt and sugar. I was giddily happy. I’m no health freak, sodium chloride and I are best buddies; however, drinking three litres of Coca-Cola to remedy it got tiresome. This kind of dining was good-time food, the MSG filled my veins and my little brain lit up. Despite my opiate like stupor, I didn’t forget other local restaurants outclass it.

Face Chinese Review Summary

Atmosphere 4/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 6/10    Service 9/10

Face Chinese Restaurant Preston

Deep Fried Mussel

*Since this review was first published, Face Chinese Restaurant is unfortunately no longer with us – hence the lack of link*

Restaurant Review: The Chinese Buffet, Preston

The Chinese Buffet – You Dim Sum You Lose Sum

Despite the no-nonsense name, The Chinese Buffet in Preston suffered from an identity crisis. Set on the extremity of the charmless Fishergate Centre, with a panoramic view of nothing, in particular, it struggled to gain a sense of character. The Chinese Buffet is 9,200 square metres, spread over three stories, which didn’t help create an ambience. The music was an incredible mix of Eurovision song contest B-Sides, poorly mixed with vaguely East Asian melodies.

The Chinese Buffet staff were very pleasant and polished; with everything seemingly coordinated with precision. The choice of dishes available was certainly impressive. The Chinese Buffet offered a range of soups, rice dishes, noodle dishes, vegetarian options and a plethora of enigmatic deep-fried objects. If I tried everything I’d be dead by now; regardless I gave it a good go. The Kung Po Chicken, Vegetarian Fried Soft Noodles, Chicken Curry and Singapore Vermicelli were comforting if not a little salty. There were more flavours than I could shake a chopstick at, and certainly more than something for everyone. I guiltily pounced on the chips but had enough self-respect to decline the Cocktail Sausages. Chilled salads, fruits and cakes were a bit of an afterthought; however, I appreciated their presence.

All the plates were reassuringly hot and all surfaces pleasingly clean. This restaurant was doing plenty right, and clearly well organised. Preston’s Chinese Buffet could do without some of the Anglo-influences such as Chicken Nuggets and Pancake Pastries; however, for those with young children, there was certainly something for everyone.

The Chinese Buffet says it has the explicit aim of providing a new style of buffet restaurant (e.g. not terrible), with high-quality food at a low cost, which to be fair they do. Refined dining it isn’t, however, for tired shoppers or hung-over students, Chinese Buffet offers great value.

The Chinese Buffet Review Summary

Atmosphere 3/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 6/10    Service 7/10

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