So the Ultimate Rugby Fan (URF) and I were back on Old York Road one evening recently. It was another beautiful early spring day and the wine that the barman at the Alma had obligingly poured into my glass was disappearing at what seemed to be an accelerated rate. As it was a school night, we felt that getting some food would probably a good idea, and I remembered that there was a fairly new Chinese restaurant, Mandarin Street, that had just opened down the road.
I was actually slightly hesitant about suggesting this despite the good things I’d heard about the place. I’d heard similar about Duck & Rice in Soho and had been rather disappointed. Yes some of the food was good, especially the duck spring rolls which were little fried wraps of heaven. We had though been encouraged to over order, with the result of lots of rice being left on the table which we couldn’t consume and then told we couldn’t stay for an after dinner drink though there were at that time plenty of other tables. Well I needn’t have worried, Mandarin Street wasn’t that sort of place at all.
Duck & Rice I think aims to be seen as a fine dining destination, my feelings are that it misses that target somewhat and hits one labelled blingtastic, poseurgasm instead. Mandarin Street has no such pretensions and aims to offer good quality Chinese food at reasonable prices with a fast turn around. It’s a real drop in get fed and leave place, not a place for dawdling over a third brandy.
Situated about two thirds of the way to the one way system in what used to be a rather out of place looking tyre dealership, Mandarin Street is decorated in a pleasantly neutral manner, enough to be nice not however conducive to lingering. The menu offers a selection of small plates, Chinese tapas if you like, each about £6 – £7, offering a good variety of choice. Wines are attractively priced, sitting around the mid £20’s, and the Pinot Grigio we had was very tasty indeed.
We first ordered 4 plates between the two of us, the pork dumplings and squid which were served first and were both truly excellent. An unusual criticism is that for £6.50 you got so much salt and pepper crispy squid it was difficult for two people to get all of the way through it. Next we’d ordered some chicken fried rice and some sticky peanut ribs. The URF is allergic to nuts, and it was good to see that the dish was served up sans nuts without any quibbles at all.
The ribs were excellent, the flesh just dropping off as if they’d be marinaded since the Tang dynasty, and the sauce having a tang all of its own. The rice was good, with plenty of chicken it it, but the ribs I have to say I think were the stand out dish of all that we’d ordered.
We arrived at around 7:30 pm, when I’d strolled past on my way to the Alma some three quarters of an hour beforehand the place had been pretty much deserted, now there was barely any spare tables, Lucky for us we weren’t any later as we just about snaffled about the last available spot. This place is popular, and deservedly so, and thanks to our split second timing we were able to avoid being turned away like so many others who arrived after us. Speaking to our waitress she suggested getting there before 7:30 or after 9 if you wanted to sit straight down.
The small plates finished, the wine evaporating nicely into my mouth, I decided to finish off with some deep fried peanut butter ice cream. This was a mistake, not because it wasn’t lovely, it was, but because I seemed to end up wearing a good portion of it, napkins, napkins, will I never learn. My spotted shirt was the now the opposite of the kitchen which can be seen as you visit the loo, and was indeed spotless…can you see what I did there.
The bill when it came was just over £60, not bad for 5 dishes and wine and included service. We were there for about an hour, and I felt it was money well spent. My advice is if you like Chinese food and good value you should get down the road to Mandarin Street before 7:30 or after 9 pm.
543 Old York Rd,
London SW18 1TQ