For so long I always thought that if a restaurant was full of people from the country it was serving food from, it was going to be a decent meal. Take for example a pizza joint with plenty of Italians, or a taco joint filled with Mexican diners and so on, you get the point. One restaurant in particular was Royal China. On any given day, lunch or dinner, it would be filled with Chinese diners who seemed to be eagerly tucking into plates and bowls of food. Given the choice available in London, if it was good enough for them, surely it served authentic food. When Luxe PR contacted me to review the Baker Street outpost of Royal China, I jumped at the opportunity because previous experiences there had been hugely varied. The last time I went two years earlier, I walked out content with the food, but complained the whole way home about how incredibly rude the waiters were. I was hoping that this time, both aspects of the meal would be perfect.
When you open the menu, you’ll notice that it’s a little tricky to find some of the veg options, and some just aren’t listed at all. Take for example the lettuce wraps, they are shown as seafood wraps, but they do a veg version. The vegetables themselves aren’t soggy and mushy which always helps and the addition of fried noodles adds a welcome crunch. The lettuce itself is crunchy, as one would hope, and is served cold.
Along with the wraps, we order the seaweed, the mock duck and a salt and pepper tofu dish. The duck is pricey, there is no questioning that, but you get a pretty sizeable portion. It’s a little greasy, but a quick dab with a tissue sorts that out. Paired with some hoisin sauce, cucumbers and a splash of chilli oil, these are some of my favourite mock duck pancakes in London. The duck came out a few minutes after the pancakes and without even requesting it, our server came and replaced the pancakes for hot ones. I almost fell off my chair in shock at how good the service was.
I ask for a bowl of soy sauce with some fresh chilli, garlic and ginger. If you haven’t tried it, go and try it and then thank me later. Maybe don’t try it at Royal China though because it’s going to set you back a fiver. Yes, you read that correctly, £5 for a bowl of soy sauce with a few bits thrown in. I asked if they fancied robbing anything else from me whilst I was there, perhaps my phone?
The seaweed here normally comes with a sprinkling of fish powder on top. I had clearly requested the vegetarian version, but the pescatarian version was served to us. No issues, everyone makes a mistake, it’s only human to do so. What I didn’t appreciate was when I asked for it to be changed, to be told ‘speak to the waiter your ordered it from, it’s not my problem’. My friend, if you are working as a waiter and I am the diner, it is by default, your problem.
At this point, we were pretty stuffed, but in the name of fairness, we still ordered some mains. Again, you’re going to struggle to find anything in the menu, but ask politely, and they will tell you that they serve mock chicken dishes. I am perplexed as to why the menu hasn’t changed to cater for the growing number of vegetarian and vegan diners. We ordered mock chicken with black bean sauce and a bow of egg fried rice.
Both were as you’d expect. Well cooked rice with some egg and a few vegetables thrown in for good measure, I mean, it’s pretty hard to get that wrong. The mock chicken itself here is pretty good. It’s firm with some decent texture, and a non-vegetarian friend has confirmed that is very close to the real thing. The sauce is as you’d expect, sweet and sticky and loaded with sugar, but then again, isn’t that the whole point of the British version of black bean sauce?
I physically couldn’t stomach dessert, and besides, I am not really a fan of deep fried apples and bananas. This is one of the biggest things that irks me about this place, the dessert menu. It seems like something from decades ago that just hasn’t evolved. I want something fun like a soufflé or a delicate pastry, not vanilla ice cream.
I feel like I am back at school as I try to write a conclusion and in all honesty, I am just really confused. On one hand, I cannot deny that the food is good. It’s comforting and well-cooked and full of flavour. On the other hand, it’s a menu that is full of all the usual suspects, which isn’t always a bad thing when they are cooked right, but at the price tag, I want something more. I was so close to changing my view on the service, it was almost great service, were it not for the one guy who was very rude. He was also the same guy who didn’t know I was there reviewing. In short, it does the job and you will leave feeling full, but it won’t leave you with that ‘I want to rush back’ feeling.
This meal was provided free of charge by Royal China Baker Street.