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

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
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

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Day In a Page

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada