Alarm bells started to ring when I noticed Elif, Spiceways and Owens were all bursting at the seams yet Canton Palace only had 4 tables taken. Hidden gem or bad smell I wonder? Despite being refurbed, the old carpet full of stains and the hideous 1970s artex was still present and correct, still intact from my first visit in 1999. Not that I'm an interior décor snob, far from it, it just seemed that only the sign outside had been refurbed. We were greeted brusquely and led to a table for three, despite the restaurant being 3/4 empty, with one of my poor companions having a nice view of the wall. After a long wait, our order was finally taken by a girl who didn't speak very much English, leading us to have to point at the dishes. To start, I ordered my much missed Spring Onion Pancakes, a firm favourite of mine when the restaurant was the Peking Garden. The two Carnivores ordered Vegetarian and Meat spring rolls.
Unfortunately, the starters were mediocre. The Carnivores reported that there was no difference between the meat and veggie spring rolls, a distinct lack of meat and a paltry portion of vegetables and the chili sauce that we shared was rather watery. My spring onion pancakes tasted more like Kwik Save potato cakes and were uncooked in the middle. However, they did try to redeem themselves with these unusual carvings decorating our plates- a nice distraction from the awful starters:
Spring Onion Pancakes- brrr freezing! An undercooked Cash and Carry purchase.
For the main, I ordered fried tofu with cashew nuts in yellow bean sauce, the Carnivores Singapore Chow Mein and Fried Beef in Ginger, served with egg fried rice. The waitress asked Carnivore 1 if he wanted prawns in his Singapore Chow Mein. What a stupid question. Do you want potatoes on your roast dinner?
I had no qualms with my tofu dish- the portion was generous, the sauce the right balance of piquancy and plum flavour. The tofu was in bitesize morsels, perfect for soaking up the flavour of the sauce, the cashew nuts giving it its signature bite. Carnivore 2's beef dish was out of this world too, it came over to the table on a sizzling platter, the ginger heightening the beef's rich flavour. Our fried rice at £2.50 a portion was disappointing as it didn't taste very eggy or fried, more like those 99p microwaveable imitations readily available in Farmfoods. Paltry portion size too. The Singapore Chow Mein wasn't worth the money- at £9 for what was essentially rice and a few beansprouts, the meat chopped up so finely it seemed like only one mouthful of meat was in it, a couple of prawns scattered for show.
I was looking forward to a decadent dessert as last time I visited, the knickerbocker glories and Pistachio sundaes were amazing. However, when I asked for the dessert menu, I was met with much confusion. It soon became apparent that the only desserts on offer were hideous concoctions you only ever see on £5 lunch deals like a scabby fried banana or a scoop of Happy Shopper vanilla in one of those school dinner-esque metal dishes. No thanks!
So, after wasting the best part of £50 on this monstrosity that probably cost £5 at the cash and carry, Canton Palace has entered my list of 'places where you'll need to go to the chippy afterwards to feel like you've had a decent dinner'. Delightful.