Review: A Wong, 70-71 Wilton Road, London SW1

Our reviewer goes in search of a Cantonese 'greatest hits' at A Wong

A few weeks ago I had a delicious, postage-stamp-sized piece of Peking duck at the very ritzy HKK. I said at the time that it made me hanker after a big old stack of duck, pancakes and all the trimmings. But where?

London has its fair share of adequate Chinese restaurants but few exemplary ones – ones that match quantity and finesse. My evenings of drink-fuelled carb-loading on high-heaped white rice with added fatty pork are behind me.

Then I happened upon a Twitter conversation between some chefs and restaurateurs who make visiting new and interesting gaffs their business (well, to be fair, it is their business).

They were plotting a lunch at A Wong, which sounds like a joke but is the name of a newish Chinese in Victoria, and the name of its chef, too – Andrew Wong, who took over the restaurant from his father late last year. My tastebuds pricked up and I took a punt on a walk-in on a Monday evening.

The place is on a rather unpromising strip of Identikit cafés and shops, but with its ceaseless stream of commuters and tourists at the nearby terminus, there's money to be made. Once past an oddly reluctant-to-open door (guys, fix this pronto, it's offputting), the L-shaped room is buzzing. Solo diners around a raised counter, a few foursomes near the back and, in front of the open kitchen, tables for two that fill up quickedy-quick.

We plunge in, avoiding a tasting menu (groan) and a duck-themed menu that includes Peking duck-infused whisky (boak). What Mr M and I are after are the greatest hits of Chinese food, not nuanced, region-defined specialisms. The restaurant's website promises "a celebration of China's kitchens" and the menu reads like "Now that's what I call wok". There's seaweed, dumplings, Singapore noodles and egg fried rice. There's chilli beef, sweet'n'sour chicken and salt'n'pepper prawns.

The joy of A Wong, though – and it is a joy – is in the detail. After a few rounds of duck pancakes (where the still-juicy shredded meat has not just the usual accompaniments of cucumber and spring onion, but minced ginger with slivers of green chilli), we clear the decks in preparation of a deluge of dishes.

First to arrive, a small bowl containing a smouldering cigar. Eh? Turns out it's a cinnamon stick, wafting a fragrance to enhance the five-spice smoked cod cheeks – which need little embellishment. They're packed with flavour but still powerfully fishy, a winning use of the cut du jour. By jowl with the cheeks is an earthy-looking beef with orange peel dish. The strips of meat are a little fibrous, but the citrusy, deeply savoury sauce is impressive.

That sweet-and-sour corn-fed chicken also works – I'm not sure whether to be disappointed at the lack of batter, but there's pineapple (yay) and the tender pieces suggest decent poultry and a chef with a spot-on palate. In fact, Andrew Wong is within chopstick distance, eyeballing every pretty pottery dish as it leaves the pass.

Where he takes his eye off the bowl – extraordinarily – is with our plain rice. It's woefully undercooked and crunchy. Luckily we've over-ordered so extensively that we don't miss it (and anyway, carbs, ugh). Filling the bulk gap is sensational Sichuan aubergine – the slender veggies split and spiced, meltingly soft and seasoned with dark, rusty chunks of dried chillis.

In fact, they appear in a supporting role in almost every dish. And Mr M is looking a little glazed. Stop eating the chillis, I warn. Oh, are they chillis, he replies, I thought they were spring onions. (He's colour-blind, and will be actually blind if he eats many more.)

Our effusive maîtresse d', Natalie, has been watching our steady plate-clearing and comes over for a chat. She could be called Natterlie, so comprehensive is her banter. At one point she calls me darling, which seems a little previous for a first visit. But so perky is the cooking and so warm the welcome that I feel I might become a regular. Not least to check out the lunchtime dim-sum menu and some other dishes that sound great: Singapore noodles with a shellfish vinaigrette, and razor clams with braised sea cucumber, wind-dried sausage and soy butter.

Everything works at A Wong, it seems – except that door.

7.5/10

A Wong, 70-71 Wilton Road, London SW1, tel: 020 7828 8931. Lunch, Tues-Sat, dinner, Mon-Sat. About £70 for two, including drinks

SCORES: 1-3 STAY AT HOME AND COOK, 4 NEEDS HE LP, 5 DOES THE JOB, 6 FLASHES OF PRO MISE, 7 GOOD, 8 CAN ’T WAIT TO GO BACK, 9-10 AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Classic Chinese

Phoenix Palace

5-9 Glentworth Street, London NW1, tel: 020 7486 3515

OTT, glitzy-yet-gloomy, this authentically Hong Kong dim-sum institution in Marylebone has a menu that's as unusual as it is impressive

Xian

324 High Street, Orpington, Kent, tel: 01689 871 881

A gem in the gloom of a fading high street, this is the best Chinese for miles around for its sensational cooking and authentic textures and flavouring

Yang Sing

34 Princess Street, Manchester, tel: 0161 236 2200

The top dim sum in the North; Harry Yeung's warehouse-style Chinatown institution has been around since 1977, and remains Manchester's most famous (and best) dining destination

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on