“ Address: 189 Hagley Road / Birmingham / West Midlands / B16 9RD „
A few weeks ago a friend of mine invited us to a local restaurant for gathering he was arranging. The restaurant in question was Lychee Gardens, a place I had heard of but never had the pleasure of trying.
Lychee Gardens is a small Cantonese restaurant on the Hagley Road in Birmingham. This was a deceptively small restaurant which we ended up missing a number of times as the hype had led me to expect something grander. Fair enough; we thought on finding the place, but we then faced the struggle of finding somewhere to park. There are a lot of side streets within walking distance of the restaurant, but most only permit parking for one hour before 6:00PM. There are no other ideal parking spots anywhere near the restaurant, so you will want to ensure that any arrangements you make are for the after 6:00PM slots.
Once we had finally parked I personally found approaching Lychee Gardens a little intimidating. The Hagley road can often be home to a number of less than savory individuals, and a few beggars were calling to us as we approached the restaurant. The exterior featured a single glass window, and a door, with a very basic sign letting you know that you had found the right place. Of the restaurants in the area Lychee Gardens seemed to have the least eye catching sign and this was a little off putting.
Once we had entered the appearance improved immensely. The first thing you encounter is a small bar area, which led into a small room with a number of homely decorated tables. It was here that a friendly young lady explained that our party was meeting in the party room downstairs. Heading down the uncarpeted wooden stairs; and past the toilets, was another slightly unsettling experience, but then we were finally greeted by our friends. Inside the party room we found a small undecorated room, with unfurnished tables, and the odd stray 'happy birthday' flyer that had no relevance to anyone in our party.
Thankfully that disappointment changed once the food arrived. Lychee Gardens is an all you can eat restaurant with a difference. It costs around £14 a head; which initially seemed expensive, but does not feature a buffet. Instead you order your food from a set menu and it is cooked fresh. It all works in the same manner as a traditional restaurant, except that you can have as many portions as you like for your £14. The portions were smaller than average so that you could comfortably sample many different things without wasting anything.
The selection was very good as well. I tried some Foo Young; Yuk Sung; Chili and Pepper chicken wings, and the hot and sour soup from the starters. As well as Sea Spiced chicken and King Prawn Curry for my mains (both with egg fried rice). All were very tasty dishes, with a perfect balance of fairly strong spices that left me sucking the food from the bones. I cannot stress enough just how tasty the food is. Even after being disappointed by the overall experience Vicky and I agreed that we would like to go again for the chicken wings alone; they were that good!!!
It was just a shame that the service tarnished my enjoyment of the meal somewhat. Once one person on our table had ordered their main course then everyone had to order from the main course menu. This was a very strict new rule that had not been advertised, and left Vicky (who wanted to have most of her food from the incredibly tasty starters menu) dissatisfied with the remaining choice of food. There were a few times that members of our party were unhappy with the time it took for their dishes to arrive, and sometimes we were informed that such dishes had not been ordered. One person felt very upset after he ordered a chicken dish and received the prawn version, only to be subsequently told by the staff that he had to eat it.
Personally I was also disappointed by the options for desert as you were limited to one choice. A Banana fritter; a single scoop of very cheap ice cream, or cup of coffee was all that was available. You had to settle for one of those, and once eaten you meal was over. To be honest I walked away feeling like I could still eat more as I always leave room for desert, but in this all you can eat restaurant I'd left way too much room for the small desert and was not permitted to have any of the starters afterwards. I always like to nibble on the starters while I socialize in an all you can eat, so this spoiled a lot of the experience for me.
Drinks were nice enough, although there were a few mistakes on the orders. They were quite reasonably priced and we were permitted to pay for them as we ordered them. So at the end of the evening all we had to do was pay for the buffet, which made it easy to figure out what everyone should pay. Even there we very nearly encountered trouble as one of our party had been ill, and the head waitress made it very clear how she felt about 19 people being present in a booking for 20.
The final stop for me was a quick trip to the gents to finish the evening. The entrance to the toilets is right next to the party room, and was a fairly dimly lit bathroom that I could not wait to get out of. After that I headed straight up the stairs and out the door.
So all things considered Lychee Gardens is not a place I could see myself frequenting. The food is seriously tasty; I can't stress enough how good it is, and most of the staff were friendly enough. Sadly the head waitress was very blunt and I found the ambience to be incredibly lacking. Even though I enjoyed the evening with my friends I think that this restaurant is just not my cup of tea.