Evening Post Article by James Hallam
The Mandarin has returned at a new address with a fresh look.
Thank heavens that one of Nottingham's best-loved, 'proper' Cantonese restaurants has risen from the ashes.'
WHEN a fire consumed The Mandarin over two years ago it left a void in the city and in the stomachs of those who enjoy authentic Cantonese cuisine.
Since then, Nottingham has seen a flood of all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurants, offering up cheap Chinese food in times of economic uncertainty.
That's fair enough for the late-night crowd after six pints of Stella. But standing in line for an often predictable combination of syrupy dishes isn't a dining experience I enjoy.
Thank heavens then, that one of Nottingham's best-loved, "proper" Chinese restaurants has risen from the ashes.
The Mandarin has moved to a smart new building on the corner of Belward Street and Goose Gate in Hockley where it occupies the bottom two floors -the old Mandarin is still a burnt-out shell just down the road.
We receive a warm welcome from the proprietor, Alan, and are shown to our table. Upstairs it is quiet, more intimate, while the ground floor buzzes with excitement. We asked for a downstairs table, close to the French windows, which open out on to a seated patio area. A pleasant warm breeze filtered in from the street.
Our Saturday-night visit started with the salt and peppered pork chops (£5). Bashed until wafer thin and coated with a light and beautifully-seasoned batter the pork dissolved like butter.
The squid was up next. Anyone who thinks this cephalopod should taste like a bicycle inner-tube needs re-educating by the chef at the Mandarin. Our appetiser (£5) came in velvety curls that melted in the mouth - no chewing required. Absolutely delicious.
-We polished off a round of Tsingtao beers and headed into the mains.
Soon, the tablecloth was barely visible as the dishes came thick and fast.
The team of waiting staff here are well-drilled,
professional and highly efficient. Service runs with absolute precision.
First up was the fillet steak Cantonese style (£10.80) - thin sheets of beef in a reddish sauce. At many restaurants I find Cantonese-style sauce to be thick and cloying. But although pleasantly sweet it did not overpower the exquisite flavour of the rare and tender beef.
Next up, monkfish in ginger and spring onion (£9.50). The fish was gleaming white and had a springy mouth-feel as monkfish should, its sea fresh taste combining perfectly with the gingery sauce to cleanse the palate.
The friendly and attentive staff are an enthusiastic bunch and are more than happy to recommend a dish, some that might not even be on the menu.
That was the case with the roast duck on the bone - a plump and tender bird dripping in a wonderfully flavoursome gravy and traditionally served cold.
Our waitress was bubbling with excitement when she told us to try the honey-roasted pork - her favourite. It was advice well-heeded. The thick chunks of meat with a sticky glaze went down a treat.
With a steaming tangle of Singapore noodles (£6) and rice (£2) also to polish off, we feared we had over-ordered yet again. Some things never change -rather like The Mandarin it would seem. And.that is a good thing.
It may be in new surroundings, with a fresh and modern look, but the food and service is as good, if not better, than before.
It is also good value and on this showing the Mandarin seems to have rightfully regained its position as one of Nottingham's establishment restaurants. Like the very best, it doesn't need to change a thing to ensure it is a continued success.
• The Mandarin is at 42 Belward Street, Hdckley Mill.
Telephone 0115 950 9157 for reservations.