Saturday, 21 November 2009

Secret Chinese restaurant, London

London's best kept secret Chinese restaurant is open again! Loon Fung is the wholesaler who supplies most Chinese restaurants in the London area, huge floorspace where you can buy rice by the tonne, cooking oil in industrial cans, and saucepans a metre in diameter. Huge choice of vegetables, UK or China grown and air freighted. These taste different, much stronger, so they're worth the price and carbon footprint. Come here too for serious, ripe tomatoes that don't taste like cardboard. And Chinese supermarkets are the only source in UK for A&W root beer!

People travel for miles to stock up, so it's common sense to give them a meal before their long trek home (and to cook for others). The restaurant, above the Alperton store, is upstairs through a side entrance. Opening hours the same as the shop, so emphasis is on dim sum and Chinese fast food.

The last caterers were very good, these new ones less so, but it's convenient to have decent Chinese food without a big ceremony and fuss parking. This time I had an excellent congee (jook) flavoured with lots of chicken knuckles. Congee is basically rice soup, a sort of watery porridge – Chinese comfort food. When in doubt, eat congee! Cures all ills. During the Japanese occupation when there was famine, congee kept people alive. Much less impressed by the char siu which was truly horrible, weedy and stale. Other people were eating noodles and whole fish, which looked good. Choose things that have to be cooked not microwaved and you should be fine.

If you want banquet quality, there are other places, but Loon Fung is convenient for basics. It's also next to a Sainsbury's megastore. One day I might get lucky and get invited to Royal China Club in St John's Wood (Club in Hong Kong connotes very very upmarket) This week I'm going to Phoenix Palace in Glentworth Street (off Baker Street). There are two Royal China's in Baker Street, one a pretentious and expensive pseudo tea house with expensive (but decent) teas. Royal China in Queensway is where everyone goes, so much so now that most of the customers aren't Chinese anymore, but the food's so good that it's worth waiting in line for an hour. There is a restaurant upstairs at Hoo Hing megastore on the A406, and above Wing Yip in Croydon, South London but neither are good - I walked out of the Wing Yip thing in disgust.

Later today : review of Harding Mahler 10 and Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (Tetzlaff) at the Barbican last night

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