â€ś Address: BahnhofstraĂźe 25 / 28195 / Bremen â€ž
~No Michelin Stars~
If you are looking for an elegant, sophisticated dining experience then you'll want to give China Express a wide berth. On the other hand if you are looking for a massive portion of steaming hot Chinese or Thai food at a price that will make you think they forgot to charge you for something, then China Express on the Bahnhofplatz in Bremen is a great bet. It is stupidly cheap and the portions are humungous - what's not to like?
My friend Sabine in our Bremen office had just resigned so we wanted to go out and celebrate and gossip. Bremen was under siege at the time - the annual Freimarkt fair had just taken up residence in the large car park by the exhibition centre and you could hardly move for crowds of people making their way to the fair. We were heading against the tide. Sabine told me we'd have the restaurant to ourselves - nobody would be there as the entire population were drinking beer and throwing themselves around on rollercoasters. She was pretty much right.
~Where's China? Near the Railway Station, of course~
If you stand in front of the Hauptbahnhof with your back to the station building, the street on which you'll find China Express is almost directly in front of you. Pass over the tram lines, pass the dodgy looking Irish pub, dodge the beggars with their lovely dogs who were out in force for the fair and it's in the block before you reach the McDonalds. Oh, did I mention this wasn't the most salubrious of areas? Maybe you picked that up. The Freimarkt seems to have attracted every homeless alcoholic and dog-owner for miles around - I've never been stopped so many times by so many people I couldn't (and didn't want to) understand.
~A la carte~
We nipped inside China Express and looked at the menu. It's only in German but if you look vague long enough someone might offer to help you. I had my own living, walking translator with me but I didn't need her - I'm fluent in food and drink. Behind the counter a turbo charged little Oriental lady zips back and forth, chatting excitedly and taking the orders. Two slightly more sedate gentlemen construct your meals.
There are a variety of meat options, a half dozen vegetarian choices and some fish. I know that I shouldn't but I go for the fish each time and then vow I won't next time but somehow the words are out of my mouth before I my brain can intercept them. I ordered a 24 - it's fish with Thai red curry sauce - and I had it with plain rice. Sabine went for a vegetarian dish. I didn't check but it looked like it might have been a black bean sauce. The reason I mention that I shouldn't have the fish is that they fry it - in fact I suspect they might even fry it twice - so it's battered and deep fried and whilst that makes it delicious, it's not exactly healthy or typically authentic.
~Cheap cheap cheap~
The bill for our food was 10 euros and for two diet Cokes we were charged another 3 euros. Thirteen euros (just over a tenner) for dinner for two is excellent value. We had to remember to take our cokes out of the fridge behind us or we'd have been standing their all evening wondering where they were coming from.
Sabine's dish was ready quite quickly. They threw some noodles from a massive pan onto a plate, chucked on some veg and slathered it all in black sauce. Hey presto. Mine took a little longer as one chef whipped up the red curry sauce with the veg and the other fried my fish in small chunks. The excitable lady created a massive mound of rice and then eventually all three came together on my plate.
There are a few tables downstairs but we decided to head up. Sabine had just told me about a company where she used to work where people had a tendency to not watch their feet on the stairs in the canteen and would go flying. I headed gingerly up the stairs. One other diner had taken a table by the window overlooking the street but we had the rest of the place to ourselves. The colour scheme is LOUD - really loud - and I think they've let someone with colour-blindness loose on the place since I was last there - pinks, reds, purples all thrown together, it's quite a sight. Once the window seat man had gone, we were left to our own devices and nobody tried to hurry us away despite us being there for absolutely ages.
My curry was spectacular. It packed a perfect punch of red curry intensity, balanced it with the smooth blandness of perfectly cooked rice and then threw a few veggies in to keep each forkful slightly different from the one before. The double-fried fish was crisp and the batter light (well as light as a twice fried batter can be) and I felt ashamed as I polished it all off. Even when I'd finished - leaving a hearty mound of rice that was just too much for me, my finger kept drifting back to the plate to search out a fingerprint-ful of the gorgeous spicy sauce. I know that next time I should just stick to the red Thai curry with vegetables and save myself the trauma of the fried fish.
Sabine polished off all her food - which was remarkable as she's normally quite a dainty eater. I had thought we might share but once we got started neither of us was interesting in losing a drop of our delicious food. This was my second visit to China Express and it won't be my last. The quality is excellent, the quantity is extreme, the price is 'cheap as chips' and if you can live with the colour-scheme upstairs, it might just be the best bargain in town.