The Gouramandiser Reviews the New China Lodge Oriental Restaurant in Kidderminster, Worcestershire
I wondered who was keeping things going in the kitchen as head chef, Wendy Lau, stood smiling beside our table. My friend and I had made our inaugural visit to the China Lodge, in Kidderminster, having read about the new venue.
Mrs Lau and her husband Tom have invested more than £500,000 in their intelligently-designed restaurant. In truth, they’ve got excellent value for money. The restaurant is simply stunning, it appears that no expense has been spared. They’ve stretched their budget to the maximum to achieve a thrilling finish.
Mrs Lau had emerged from the kitchen early in the evening. My friend and I had been purusing the impressive China Lodge menu and sought recommendations. Mr Lau, the venue’s irrepressibly friendly matire d, had repaired to the kitchen so as to check matters with his wife.
And so we found ourselves seated, with the head chef talking us through the menu. Now that’s what I call service.
We’d arrived at the restaurant half an hour earlier and repaired to a quiet corner. China Lodge has areas to suit people of all tastes. There is a capacious bar, which was full of glamorous ladies out on the town during our recent visit.
There are large dining areas for big parties of friends and those seeking celebrations. Then there are quieter nooks and crannies, where friends and couples can catch-up or enjoy intimate dinners.
Chinese food is among my favourite types of cuisine. I’ve visited plenty of authentic restaurants during trips to Beijing and Shanghai and like to think of myself as being reasonably discerning when it comes to oriental food.
My friend and I duelled over how we should start. Satay, I said. Ribs, he replied. Lettuce parcels, I countered. Mongolian crispy lamb, he said back. We folded and agreed to share the China Lodge Gourmet Selection, which was a generous platter of mixed hors d’oeurves.
The seasame toast was light and fluffy and packed with salty flavour; the barbecue ribs were long, sticky and wonderfully meaty. They’d been cooked perfectly, so as to render out any fat, leaving us with intensely flavoursome sticks of pork. The spring rolls were light and crispy, packed full of finely diced ingredients and vegetables. The satay chicken skewers were my personal favourites, featuring large tender chunks of chicken breast and a spicy peanut and chilli sauce. The platter was completed by a portion of crispy seaweed, which was heaven itself.
My friend had earlier in the evening revealed a penchant for crispy aromatic duck: “Isn’t it just the best dish in the world,” he said. Happily, the dish featured on a Szechuan feast, which we greedily ordered. The duck has a real treat. His was served in lettuce parcels, mine in steamed wafer-thin pancake wrappers. Hoi sin sauce, cucumber and spring onion added body.
The remainder of our feast arrived soon after: kung po chicken, stir-fried prawns with seasonal greens, a Szechuan shredded crispy chilli beef and a special fried rice. The kung po chicken was deliciously tender while the sauce was hot, spicy and more-ish. The beef was fried hard and fast, so that it crisped into tiny nuggets of savoury delight. It was served with miniature garlic crisps; slender slices having been cooked through until golden brown. The prawns, meanwhile, were cooked until tender and proved the perfect complement to the aromatic rice.
We were minded to skip desserts. The food was so satisfying that it seemed as though we ought to call time on our dinner. But my friend insisted that we try the desserts. “Let’s go for something light,” he suggested, eschewing the banana fritters and plumping for fresh mango with coconut ice cream. “It’s one of your five a day,” he reassured me.
In truth, it proved a fitting end to our dinner. The mango was sweet and fresh while the ice was light and creamy. Our bill, including drinks, was around £45 – a veritable steal for such a feast.
The owners of China Lodge have taken great time and trouble to get their new venture off to the best possible start. Wendy and Tom Lau, who were formerly based in Bridgnorth, have pulled it off. Their restaurant looks great, the food is stunning and the service is first rate. The other guests in the restaurant all looked happy: there’s no doubt about it, they’re onto a winner.
By The Gourmandiser for ETM