Chinatown’s Best Kept Secret??
HK Diner, 22 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1D 6QQ
This Friday just gone I met up with Wesley. I haven’t seen him since before Christmas. As Wes is a lover of all things Chinese, we decided to meet in Chinatown to go to one of his favourite restaurants, HK Diner. So I made my way over to Chinatown and waited underneath the small pagoda for Wes and his friend Jay to turn up.
It was my first visit to the place, although I’d heard about it. It was fairly busy but the cosy booth-style setup offsets this somewhat and allows you to enjoy your meal in comfort. Despite the staff being very well-presented, it’s a very informal affair and the clientele vary from Chinese businessmen to theatre-goers.
Wesley and Jay are fluent in Chinese and impressed the hell out of the waiters, as well as me. We got some drinks in first of all, Wesley and I went for a Tsingtao beer each, while Jay opted for one of the many teas they have on offer. Whilst I don’t drink tea, I’m told the tea there is pretty good and they seemed to have a good selection too, including various incarnations of the ubiquitous bubble tea which is becoming so popular on these shores.
We looked over the menus, which were in English and Chinese, and Jay recommended that I try the mixed meat fried noodles, which I did. The waiter asked me if I would like my noodles “hard or soft”. Wesley told me that “hard” in this instance meant “crispy”. So I thought I’d try that, as I’d never had “crispy” noodles before. The waiter seemed surprised that I’d ordered that, I’m guessing you don’t get many westerners asking for crispy noodles.
I recalled the South Park episode where Cartman talks about how disgusting mee krob in Thai restaurants is. I’d never had that either, and was now anxiously wondering whether what I’d just ordered would be in any way similar to that. Then I remembered that I don’t take gastronomic advice from cartoon characters.
Wesley went for the roasted pork with rice, seen below (apologies for the photo being a little blurry).
I have to praise them for their ultra-fast service. I don’t know if there is such a thing as service in a restaurant being too fast, but I was very hungry and certainly wasn’t going to complain. All of our orders arrived within a couple of minutes.
The crispy noodles were actually very nice. I think I prefer them in this manner rather than overly sloppy, soggy noodles you sometimes get elsewhere. The mixed meat in question was roasted pork, chicken, fish balls and squid, The pork was the highlight – the perfect balance of succulent meat, fat, and a crispy outer layer, and I think I will go solely for that next time. The dish was rounded off with a selection of vegetables – carrot, baby corn, mushrooms and Chinese greens. Overall it was a very good dish, however my one criticism was that the sauce could have had a bit more flavour to it.
The portion sizes were well worth what we paid (a little under a tenner each including a beer), and the overall experience was a pleasant one on a lot of levels, so I will definitely make a point of visiting HK diner again. And it’s open until 4am, which is worth bearing in mind the next time I stumble out of O’Neills with the munchies.