Friday, 7 May 2010

Ma-Bo, Liverpool

Liverpool's most quaint, interesting and authentic Chinese!

If you're ever in Liverpool, there is one Chinese you absolutely have to go to. The Ma-Bo is a Chinese like no other in the city and will provide you with an authentic Chinese experience. There are no dragons on the wall. There is no 'all you can eat' buffet. Instead of garish red lanterns decorating the window, there are ducks and chickens hanging up. It hasn't been decorated since 1950 and the kitchen is at the same time the window display. Welcome to the Ma-Bo.Liverpool's Chinatown was once a hive of activity but since the increase in all You Can Eat buffet restaurants and the changing tastes for Mediterranean food, it has turned into a ghost town in recent years. Recently, when I was looking for a lunchtime deal, only 2 restaurants in Chinatown were open for Saturday lunch, the China Palace buffet and Ma-Bo. Ma-Bo was quite easy to miss, it isn't bright and gaudy like the other eateries in the street and looks just like a Georgian terraced house. On close inspection, it is far from boring though. Chickens and ducks adorn the window and a lady is busy cooking in full view of the street, enticing the customers in with sumptous pancakes and the exotic smell of Dim Sum. Inside, you are overwhelmed with a cheerful, cosy atmosphere with a mix of Chinese and British customers who all seem to know each other, obviously regulars. It appears that if you go to the Ma-Bo more than once, you become a part of this bustling happy family. The tables are very close together and only seats about 25 people,the furnishings are basic but this adds to the exotic charm of the place. Once you are engrossed in your meal, you momentarily forget you are in England and think you have been transported far away to somewhere exotic.
If it is your first visit, you might be a bit put off by the abruptness of the staff, but you soon realise this is 'their way' and don't mean to cause any offence; it just adds to the uniqueness of the Ma-Bo experience. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention it is a BYO.
I ordered a plate of veggie spring rolls with a chilli-hot dip, they were disappointingly average for such an authentic place, but were tasty nonetheless. I was hoping my main, Vegetarian Vermicelli, would impress. It did.
The Vermicelli was a massive portion, a colourful festival of noodles, beansprouts, peppers and more. No matter how much I ate, it never seemed to decrease in size. You could say it was the food version of that infamous Icelandic volcano! The juicy peppers kept erupting in my mouth , one taste burst after the other. Impressive.
Meanwhile, I seemed to stand out like a sore thumb, being probably the only veggie in the room. My fellow diners were concentrating on their duck delights, diligently preparing pancakes and plum sauce. Although this place has a good choice of vegetarian options, I feel that the veggies are missing out as the central focus of Ma-Bo is poultry.
I will definitely return to Ma-Bo as the whole experience is a journey to both 1950s Liverpool and a Shanghai kitchen. My only complaint is the lack of interesting, inspiring veggie dim sums. This place is obviously driven by creative, imaginative owners and they are more than capable of coming up with a mindblowing veggie platter.

Ma Bo on Urbanspoon

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Hi Vindaloo Kings and Queens!