To the amusement of my very camp, very gay friend, when we arrived we were mistaken for a couple on a date night and ushered to an intimately secluded table at the back of the restaurant, complete with an odd fake plant wrapped in Christmas lights by the side. He remarked, with a graceful flick of the wrist, that he’d never felt more butch than when the waitress called him ‘sir’ and handed him the menus, asking him if we wanted drinks.
Having heard rapturous sermons on the deliciousness of the fake meat dishes, otherwise impossible to find in Oxford, we chose to get some crispy mock beef with salt and pepper dressing and dumplings to start. This was, I hope, a mistake. The dumplings, obviously bought and cooked from frozen, were overcooked to the point of being unpleasantly difficult both to pick up with chopsticks and to bite into with mortal teeth. The ‘beef’ tasted more like fried batter so drowned in pepper that I cannot accurately report whether or not it’s anything worth writing home about.
For the mains, we shared a pot of egg fried rice and two mains: a fortunate decision, as one of them was completely inedible. The mock pork, while pleasantly tender and surprisingly authentic in taste, was unfortunately drowned in a disgustingly gelatinous, ridiculously saccharine sauce, which somehow managed to be simultaneously overspiced and indescribably bland. The strong flavours of ginger and garlic were discernable, but the rest of the ingredients, through their direct competition, faded to white noise.
The second option was little better, with admittedly good baked tofu and an uninspired selection of veg served in another gelatinous sauce, theoretically black bean. The stingy portion should not have been enough for two, but the significant amount of MSG in everything filled us up unexpectedly quickly.
The service, though efficient, was intrusive, ruining the intimate feel of the restaurant. When they took our largely uneaten plates away they looked unsurprised, making their prices seem even more shameless.