I am still trying to find a replacement for my much loved Golden Phoenix and its super business lunch. One of Liverpool's oldest Chinese restaurants with charming 70s decor, friendly staff and the famous Dessert Island sweet display, it sadly got demolished during the Capital of Culture propaganda in 2007. Regular blog readers will be aware of my disapproval of Liverpool 1 and the city's 'regeneration', fabulous old businesses and buildings were and still are being culled in the name of modernisation and yet more soulless chains are being erected in place. Boring. Anyway, rant over, time to eat.
The Mandarin is on the fringes of the business district and has been around for years, but in its previous form, was on the opposite side of the road. Now it has hit back with a glitzy glossy refurb but still offers a cheap and cheerful business lunch for approx £7- 3 courses and a drink. Ornate furnishings and statues complement the interior, modern but not faceless and brash. The spacious interior is a godsend, there's enough space in between tables as not to eavesdrop on your dining neighbours' conversations. The staff are attentive and friendly, the menu extensive but not overwhelming- just like Gordon Ramsay and every other discerning restaurant connoisseur likes! The menu is conveniently divided into a Vegetarian and a Meat section which saves a lot of umming and aahing what we veggies often have to put up with in Chinese restaurants. (Veggies will know what I mean- 'do you do vegetarian hot and sour?' 'We can take the meat out''Veg and Tofu? Errm we'll see if that's possible or if there's a surcharge'. It's vegetarianism, not rocket science.)
To start, there is the choice between soup or 'Pancake' rolls. Here, this translates as spring rolls, not actual pancakes, but nonetheless a decent portion. I opted for the Sweetcorn soup- a decent portion albeit lukewarm. The Carnivore went for the non-veggie spring rolls, a generously sized portion of 2 fat ones.
My main was a sumptuous Veggie Vermicelli, one of my staple dishes when I am bored with Szechuan. The mix of carbs and fresh veg with a hint of spice make a healthy yet filling dinner. The portion was generous but there was a distinct lack of vegetables bar peppers. I would have loved to have seen some broccoli, sugar snap peas, maybe some mini corn. Nonetheless, it was tasty and the sesame seed garnish gave it some much needed bite. Meanwhile, the Carnivore chowed down on the meat version, which also had a distinct lack of meat. What meat there was, it was cut up into small cubes.
The dessert was a choice between coffee and mint or ice cream, the Carnivore didn't want one so I ended up with both. The ice cream (vanilla) was a generous portion and served in a stylish ice cream dish as opposed to the ubiquitous metal ones, but the coffee got thumbs down. Yes, it was instant which really got my goat as I'm pretty sure I spied a filter machine behind the bar. For a top class restaurant, instant coffee is a bit shabby, even if it was the business lunch. And there was no mint, despite saying so on the menu.
A drink was also included in the meal- a half pint, soft drink or glass of wine, but the Carnivore ordered an additional pint. At £3.50 and tasting a bit iffy, it had a bigger head on than Marge Simpson. Stay teetotal here, it's the better option.
The Mandarin may look the part, but it definitely hasn't replaced the Golden Phoenix shaped hole in my heart. A good standby for a cheapo business lunch, but not top of my list.