Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Restaurant Review: The Old China Hand

There's not many independent pubs around these days.  Even less with a list of around thirty different beers from around the world.  And certainly basically none with a ping-pong table.  Well the Old China Hand has all of these things and it serves dim-sum along with all that beer.  Sadly no one's going, which is a shame because it's a nice place.

We were there on a Tuesday night so I suppose it was never going to be that full.  But I've read elsewhere that its normally fairly quiet.  Its changed names a couple of times over the last few times as well and that's normally a bad sign.  It's not in the most neighbourhoody of locations I suppose, but there are still plenty of residential areas nearby.  Oh well whatever it is, people should certainly be supporting their local in this case.

The food was good.  The dim-sum comes in fours, which is unusual as four sounds very simlar to death in Cantonese and is, consequently, fairly bad luck.  On the plus side it makes sharing in a two much easier.  We only got one set of steamed dumpling, which are normally my favourite.  I was glad about that in retrospect as the prawn and spinach dumplings didn't have the nice sticky casing that I like.  These were a little loose and lacked the nice bite that makes perfect dumplings so good.  The fried alternatives on the other hand were lovely.  Good crispy chicken sesame toasts were good and grease free.  Prawns wrapped in strips of celery were good too, if a little bland.  Sweet pork, the type you get in a Char Su bun, came in delicious crumbly puff pastry that dissolved in the mouth and were fantastic.  My favourite, which will be controversial with my girlfriend who didn't like them, were pan fried lamb and mint dumplings.  The thick dough worked perfectly soaking in the rich meaty juice from the filling.  All of these fried foods also went very well with beer, so it worked out well all round.  Each portion of four was between £4-5 so pretty reasonable value, given that a cup of pistachios cost about £2 something in most gentrified pubs nowadays.

All in all I really liked this place.  I wouldn't travel across town for it, but if you're in the area you could do a lot worse (though seeing as its round the corner from places like Moro there are other better options) especially if you want to be in the pub with some mates.  Atmosphere is lacking but the staff were very nice and if you go in a group and play some ping pong you'll make it yourself.  Hopefully some of the locals will follow suit.

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