“ 21 High Street / Eccleshall / Stafford / ST21 6BW / Tel: 01785 851 200 „
Went here for the first time a few weeks ago. Very busy and most of the other dinners were having the all you can eat menu. Food was really nice and hard to choose as there were so many tempting dishes which were different from the run of the mill menus. Surroundings felt rather basic and the waitresses were efficient but not particularly forthcoming when I asked about a specific dish.Great food if a little on the expensive side but don't bother with the puddings as they are a let down and a basic frozen range. Book early as very busy and try something different off the menu as you won't be disappointed.
I am very picky about my Chinese food. I lived in China for many years and I know what proper Chinese food should taste like - unfortunately, many Chinese restaurants in this country take advantage of the fact that the British generally don't know and I am so often disappointed that I generally steer clear of Chinese food even in London. Imagine my surprise when taken for a meal in a small town in Staffordshire, only to find that the food was superbly authentic and apparently very popular with the locals.
21 High Street
Telephone: 01785 851200
Although Eccleshall is only a very small town, with a population around 12,000, it is only five miles away from junction 14 and junction 15 of the M6 and is therefore easily accessible from Birmingham, Cheshire, Shropshire and Derbyshire. Just follow the signs for Eccleshall from either junction - the High Street is easy to find because it is the main shopping street.
12 noon-2pm daily
6pm-11pm Sunday to Thursday
6pm-11.30pm Friday and Saturday
I have deeply fond memories of the building in which the restaurant is situated. As a child, I lived in Eccleshall and it used to be a haberdashery of the old type, with all sorts of fascinating things for a child hidden away in draws behind the counter. It is still a beautiful building and I am pleased to say has been lovingly restored by the owners and the managers of the restaurant. The restaurant covers two floors. As you walk in through the door, the restaurant on the ground floor is a long room straight ahead and bar and reception is to the left. The restaurant is decorated quite plainly; cream on the walls and between the beams with a deep red carpet, which is amazingly warming and welcoming. The first floor section of the restaurant is decorated in the same way, but because it has only been recently converted into restaurant space, it is much less worn. On the walls, there is a selection of Chinese artwork - on the wall by our table, for instance, was a traditional Chinese painting of horses. The first floor section is split into three rooms, which gives a cosier feeling. Downstairs tends to be saved for large parties - there was a table of 20 there when we arrived.
When we first arrived, there were three young women at the bar, two were busy, but one just ignored us. We stood for a couple of minutes until one of the others had finished talking on the phone and were then shown to our table. The waitress was chatty - she explained that the first floor was recently converted; previously they had used the basement, but it had proved too damp to use regularly. She asked us if we wanted chopsticks or cutlery, then left us to peruse the menu. Another waitress arrived shortly to take our drinks order, followed by the food one.
Our drinks and first courses arrived very promptly. We then had to wait for a good 20 minutes for our main courses. However, the restaurant was incredibly busy at this point, so I didn't feel as if we were being ignored, and it gave us time to digest the soup.
On the whole, I thought the service was pretty good. The young woman who initially ignored us waited on us throughout the meal, and although not particularly chatty, she was quite polite and prompt. My only issue was that one dish I had ordered was replaced by another without any explanation. It was good, so I didn't bother following up with the waitress, but I didn't like the fact that they probably presumed I wouldn't know the difference.
The food and drink
Oh yum. I was really pleased by the selection of food on the menu. It is supposed to be northern Chinese cuisine, so there is very little of the ubiquitous lemon chicken and sweet and sour pork. The menu was divided into starters, main courses and set meals. There were an amazing array of starters, including three types of platters (seafood, spicy and mixed), spare ribs, wontons and dumplings, satay, crispy seawood and soups. Knowing that the people I was with wouldn't like anything too out of the ordinary or spicy, I ordered the chicken and sweetcorn soup, which came piping hot and fragrant and was deliciously authentic.
For main courses, there was a wide range of dishes, including seafood, duck (the crispy aromatic duck looked delicious), beef, lamb, pork, hot pot, vegetables and beancurd, noodles and rice. After much perusal, I ordered sizzling chicken in black bean sauce, double cooked pork, sauteed seasonal vegetables and Ma Po beancurd with plain boiled rice. The piece de resistance was definitely the double cooked pork. It is so called because it is first barbecued before being stir fried. The sauce was slightly spicy and there was a definite bite in the chilli peppers, but mixed up with the sweetness of the sauce. Superb. The sizzling chicken came on an iron plate and was both sizzling and tasty. The vegetables were lighly stir-fried and very delicious. The Chinese really know how to cook their vegetables and this was exactly how I remember them being cooked in China. The beancurd was also lovely, crisp on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth on the inside, although it wasn't what I ordered. This was probably just as well though, because Ma Po Beancurd should be very spicy and the others in the company probably wouldn't have liked it as much.
I rarely eat Chinese food with wine, although there was a large wine list, but prefer beer. Luckily, they stocked Tsingtao (pronounced Ching Dao) beer, so I ordered that. There were a wide range of other beers, including local draft ales to choose from.
None of us had dessert. It wasn't necessary after such a large meal and anyway, the Chinese aren't known for their desserts, so I can't comment on them. However, the choices included ice cream, lychees and pineapple and banana fritters. Coffee was also available.
The toilets are out through the back of the ground floor part of the restaurant and are perfectly adequate. Nothing more, nothing less.
Wheelchair access would be impossible for the first floor restaurant; the only way to get upstairs is via the stairs - because it is a listed building, it isn't possible to fit a lift. However, there are no steps up into the restaurant, so ground floor access is not a problem.
This is not a cheap restaurant, particularly considering the location. Starters range from £3.50 to £9.50 (for scallops and other delicacies). Main courses average at about £7. However, for the quality of the food, I would say that it is well worth it.
There are a couple of offers that people on a budget can take up. One is the lunch time special, which is only £6.95 per person seven days a week, which incudes a choice of a selection of starters, main courses and deserts. There is also an eat as much as you like banquet, available on Sunday to Thurday evenings for £13.50.
There is also a takeaway service available at a 10% discount.
I went to the restaurant with the reluctance that I always feel when going to Chinese restaurants in this country. I was pleasantly surprised. The food was fresh, tasty and authentic, and there was a very cosy atmosphere in the restaurant. I still have relatives that live in Eccleshall and so will be able to take the opportuntity to go back whenever I want. Highly recommended, and judging by the number of people in the restaurant, I'm not the only one that likes it.