Saturday, 14 March 2009
Four Seasons, Bayswater
You've not had roast duck till you've had Four Seasons roast duck (or Gold Mine's, or Magic Wok's, but hey, such is the joy of variety).
Ask anyone in London where the best roast duck is to be had, and the answer will probably be one of these three places. It's not that we're short of restaurants selling roast duck in Chinatown, so it is quite surprising that all three restaurants named above are located along the Queensway / Bayswater stretch.
The lead waitress (perhaps an understatement, as she is pretty much front of restaurant) is a rather loud, but definitely likeable lady. She's the one you sweet-talk into giving you a table, and she's the one you smile at for more roast duck gravy. The impression I have so far is that you don't want to be on the wrong side of her (you don't want duck without gravy, do you).
Usually, there are people dining here at all times of day. We've had dinner as late as 10.30pm when we still had to wait for a table, and we weren't even the last ones in.
Using the usual glance-around-for-what-others-are-having technique, I've come up with these must-have dishes when you're here.
1. Roast duck (unless you've completely missed the point of this post)
2. Steamed three-treasure egg (which is salted egg, century egg and chicken egg, mixed and steamed, like a delicate savoury custard)
3. Stir-fried tau miu (sweet pea shoots) with garlic
4. Japanese tofu with minced pork (one of my favourites)
5. Sizzling sweet and sour prawns (not very mainstream, but very nice)
6. Stir-fried kailan with garlic
7. Aubergine stewed with minced pork
After waiting till after 9pm to avoid the dinner rush-hour crowd, we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table. This is the shortest waiting time I've had in this restaurant, so we practically skipped to the table in hungry glee.
Having pretty much decided on what to order about 3 hours before we got there, we put our order in with the waiter and the food arrived about 20 minutes after we sat down (when you're hungry, conversations goes to a low, and you just count the seconds until food is there).
Roast duck (£9 for half a duck, £17 for the whole of Donald)
Look at how it glistens, this really tastes like it looks. Unless, of course, you think it looks disgusting, in which case you're wrong.
The skin retains crispness and taste, despite it being roasted probably hours before. Even with the gravy around the duck, the skin doesn't get soggy. The sauce is slightly sweet, like BBQ sauce, and has a slightly 'roasted' flavour about it. The duck meat is tender, but not mushy, and has a meaty bite to it.
Japanese tofu with minced pork (about £6.80)
One of my all-time favourites in Chinese restaurants, although slightly too starchy here. The tofu was deep-fried before being stewed with the minced pork and gravy, thus retaining all of the flavour.
The term 'Japanese tofu' is used to describe tofu which come in plastic tubular casing, and there is the kind with egg and without egg. This is different from the usual square tofu because it is tastier, possibly due to the egg, and texture-wise, it's smoother.
Stir-fried tau miu (sweet pea shoots) with garlic (£8.00)
I've had this before, not in London, and the vegetable was slightly different to the one here. The one I had before was thinner, and thus, more string-like where as this one was very crisp, very green and very delicious.
Black bean beef (£7.50)
Very fresh and very tasty, but nothing much to add to this as you probably know what black bean beef tastes like. If you don't, I suggest a visit to the local Chinese takeaway.
I keep saying I'll try out Gold Mine and Magic Wok (gotta love these names) but each time, I'm tempted by the familiar Four Seasons so this is definitely recommended by me.
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