“ Chinese. 79 George St, Oxford, OX1 2BQ. tel = 01865 248680 „
As the title suggests I am freshly returned from the Opium den having been taken there by my Dad who is visiting at the mo. I could say that it makes a change from kebabs, and I'd be right but I'd also be doing the Opium Den a huge injustice because with the possible exception of the Yang Sing in Manchester it's the best Chinese Restaurant I've ever been to. In order to give you a true picture of what its like I should first tell you what we had this evening. It was one of the set menus and was Selection of Dim Sum [Salt & Pepper Chicken, Spring Roll, Satay Chicken and Spare Rib] ---- Crispy Duck with Pancakes ---- Sweet & Sour Chicken Mixed Meat with Mushroom Stir Fried Vegetables Special Fried Rice And by gum it was good! The Spring Roll was much of a muchness - there isn't much you can do either good or bad to a spring roll but the rest of the dim sum was exceptional - The Satay and Salt & Pepper chicken were both very tasty in the flavoursome sense of the word and the Rib was practically falling off of the bone it was so tender. Most Dim Sum tends to just get you in the mood for some serious eating but this was so good and plentiful that it took a bit of an edge of my appetite by itself! Next was the Duck, which was also excellent - very crispy and succulent with the usual pancakes, plum sauce and veg. 3 Pancakes worth each is which is a very decent portion for an entree. By this time I was starting to fill vaguely full already and hadn't even begun the main course which was swift in following. The S&S Chicken was tender and tasty and the Mixed Meat with Mushroom also good. The special fried rice was packed full of prawn and veg and was substantial in and of itself. What a feast it was! A couple of hours later and I'm still totally full. At about £45 for the two of us it's rather beyond student budgets and thus very much limited to the parental v isit but it's very very good. The atmosphere is good apart from the obligatory dodgy music, which sounds like it came from the Chinese equivalent of Eurovision (and no, that isn't a compliment!) The service was reasonably quick and friendly, chopsticks rather than forks were provided but if you ask the waiter they'll get you a fork (so I'm a peasant, so sue me!). All in all definitely worth a visit if you've got the money. Alas, usually, I don't.
The Opium Den is situated on bend of George Street, as it leads into Park End Street. It is surely one of the best Chinese restaurants in Oxford, and defiantly my favorite eatery in the town. The outside may be deceiving to some. It does not look amazing, and is fairly plan in decor and appearance. We were put off initially, and only tried the food on a friends recommendation. If you take a second look, you will not see many empty tables. Well worth noting is that Chinese people dine here. A Chinese friend advised me that this is the sign of a good restaurant - why would someone who knows how the food should taste go somewhere where it tastes wrong. The inside of the restaurant is clean and well presented. This is not a huge establishment, but there are several big tables for large parties and enough "tables for two" to ensure it is well booked come Valentines Day. The menu offers a wide range of Chinese dishes, including the old favorites such as Crispy Duck and Sweet and Sour Pork. You can choose from a good selection of starters, including a superb Hot and Sour Soup. Well worth trying, are some the more exciting sizzling dishes. These are available in Chicken, Lamb, Beef or Pork and are served with your choice of Sauce from a mild Satay style to a hot and spicy style. The waiter will bring the dish to your table and serve it on a red-hot skillet, creating a fantastic sizzling effect and a wonderful smell. Along with the Chinese dishes, the Opium Den also offers a choice from a Thai menu. I have yet to sample anything from this, but will defiantly give it a go on a future visit. The wine list offers all the usual choices, as well as Chinese lagers, Sake and soft drinks. Your waiter will be quite attentive, so expect your glass to remain full throughout your meal. We have visited the Opium Den on two occasions as a couple, and plan to go in a group this coming weekend. I cannot recommend this restaurant eno ugh. It is exceptionally good value for great Chinese food.