Yes, alright, I admit it. It was my idea and I am deeply deeply sorry. If any of my friends (well, the ones that are left) hear me suggest Mr Au's again, they have my permission to feed me a dodgy spring roll and make me go back for seconds. This review is more of a warning, to those dooyoo readers who have lots of friends and go out in the West End. It was a Friday evening, and we were looking for a quick meal so that our drinking wouldn't be interrupted for too long. We found a Chinese restaurant, and left again when it was clear they weren't going to serve us. "Ai ai" says I, "I know a cheap and cheerful place round the corner on Charing Cross Road." As long as I live I will regret those words. My friends fatefully assuming that I had my finger on the pulse of West End nightlife, I led them to said cheap and cheerful eaterie. Mr Au's is quite large, which is bad news because they can normally fit you in. It is on three levels of bright white tiles populated by a bustly and rude staff. The premise is straightforward: all you can eat for a fiver. The choice is limited to sweet and sour chicken, chicken in black bean sauce, prawns, spring rolls, and two types of rice. The food - and for the moment let's keep up the pretence - sits in big stainless steel bowls waiting to be scooped unsuspectingly onto plates by a gullible clientele. You can go back as ofetn as you like, and wash it down with overpriced lager (they must make their money somehow I suppose). Oh my word it's bad. It's worse than bad. The food is appalling and left at least one of my friends feeling very very ill. The waitress made us feel as welcome as one of their spring rolls, and the bright neon lights contributed to the general air of gloom. After five minutes it was clear I had a lot of explaining to do. Please don't go, and if you must, only go with casual acquaintances so that you don't lose any close frien
ds. I have made the mistake for you, and am now living a sad and lonely life trying to pick up friends in decent Chinese restaurants in Soho. You can afford an extra few quid not to let this happen to you can't you?
Dooyoo never ceases to surprise me. Whilst skimming through the New Items List, which, as I'm sure you know, is usually full of hot topics like "Hotel In Buxton" or "A Small Flea I Once Saw In Swansea", I chanced upon a name that will haunt me forever - that of Mr Au. During my days as a lowly student in London, I frequented many a cheap restaurant, with dubious standards of cuisine, but, for some reason, Mr Au stands out as the tyrant of tripe, emperor of the inedible, and ruler of road kill. Here, then, is all you need to know about Mr Au. If you have spent a significant amount of time in the Soho/Leicester Square area, you might well have noticed that Chinese buffet restaurants are anything but rare (they call it Chinatown for a reason, you know). The most famous of these is the renowned Mr Wu - a long established gastronomical tradition amongst the university class of London. The trouble with these buffets is, and this is a tip you should always remeber, that there is a strong correlation between proximity to Leicester Square tube station and food poisoning. Mr Au, as you might have guessed, is but a stone's roll from the tube, and its food is prepared accordingly. When I started university, in 1997, there were no Mr Au's - only Mr Wu's. Either some marketing genius of the Chinese buffet trade invented Mr Au's to create confusion amongst the tourist masses, or the owners are not very imaginative. Either way, Mr Au's seems to be a direct off-shoot from Mr Wu's in every way, apart from quality (which, as you'll know if you have ever been to a Mr Wu's, is saying a lot). In fact, when Mr Au first appeared, there was mass speculation amongst the community as to the name of the next restaurant - would we be endowed with a Mr Pu's or a Mr Fu's? Or would some somebody go against the grain and establish the first Dr Hu's, or Mr Wy's? It was very exciting stuff if you were there. Anyway, I guess I should get on with the review. Mr Au is a fairly small restaurant located on Charing Cross Road, slap bang next door to a small porn shop, and frequented by tourists and the poverty-stricken alike. There is a large white sign in the window detailing the day's "delights" (which, by the way, never change, as static as the egg-rolls, which must surely remember the giddy times of King George VI), with a fairly inviting price tag of 4.50 (sorry - there's no pound key on these damned yankee keyboards) for all you can eat. Now for the most important part of any restaurant review - the food. Truman III, who, incidentally, I went to university with, put it best, I think: "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach - the cholesterol at Mr Au was the first thing to learn this." Mr Au is surely a cunning ploy by big business to dispose of useless MSGs in an environmentally friendly way - feed it to tourists. The dishes are grouped on a large table in the front of the restaurant, where passers-by can have a gander. The sheer audacity of this ploy makes going there worthwhile. Not only is the food unpleasant to taste, smell, digest, or even think about for too long, it looks like something a fly has just regurgitated because it didn't entirely agree with him. To actually exhibit these wares to potential customers is the gutsiest thing I've ever been a party to, and should go down as such in the annals of history along with Rob Roy's defiance of English rule, Abe Lincoln's stand on slavery, and the guy who pulled a moony at the archers during the Battle of Hastings. Mr Au is also involved in the same soft drink scam all buffets in England aspire to. Their drinks are even more over-priced than usual for London and could probably be poured into a small teacup without too much spillage. Each of these drinks will cost you upwards of 1.50. Enterpreneurship at its very best. So, the
food is bad, the drinks are too expensive - why does anyone bother? For the same reason that most of the rip-off stores in Central London continue to thrive: tourists. Tourists will go there and either praise the value of the food so they don't look too stupid (Americans) or simply try and forget the whole painful ordeal and go back to the conveniently close-by strip clubs (Europeans). Each year a fresh batch of tourist meat will find themselves, after a visit to Mr Au, invoking solemn prayers while squatted on a scummy toilet seat in Central London, hoping that the disshevelled man, mumbling about how his porcupine must die, outside will not push any harder on the door to the stall. This, then, is my little contribution to save the souls of a few more tourists who may be conned into thinking that there is anything of value to be bought in Central London. It doesn't happen - everything's a rip-off, everyone hates you, go home. I hope that doesn't sound too harsh, I'm just trying to help.