Living in the burbs is often associated with mediocre food, and to get anything remotely satisfying for a jaded palate, the standard is to head into Zone 1. I’m allowed to make sweeping generalisations too, I’m human. It’s a case in point with Imperial China, based in the affluent area of Surrey, they call Teddington. I come here often during lunch times and leave a happy patron after inhaling stacks of their skilfully made dim sum, without going into Zone 1. (My ramblings of their dim sum can be seen here). The evening menu which I’m here to try, features Cantonese crowd pleasers but also authentic dishes that you wouldn’t normally see in your local, unless this is your local?
Salty, and sour complimentary snacks get the saliva glands going.
Soft shell crab (£14 for 2) is deep fried until golden, then is tossed in a hot wok with chopped garlic, fiery red chillis, lashings of salt and fragrant rice wine. By notion, it should be a fine piece of work, but the excess batter overwhelms the little crab which gets lost. May as well of been “deep fried batter with essence of crab”.
Hor fun, the slithery flat rice noodle that we all love and is so synonymous with Cantonese cooking is a comforting greasy classic. (I mean that in the best possible way). Here we have it with BBQ pork (£8.30), but it misses the point, as it comes tepid and lacks that the taste of the wok sear that we associate with standard Cantonese cookery.
The honey roasted eel £20, is a skilled bit of kitchen wizardry, as deboning the slippery bugger takes a lot of craft I can imagine. Here it’s glazed with honey, deep fried in a coating that gives the end product a Essex shade of fake tan gone wrong. For good measure, they garnish with edible flowers and slinky pieces of carrot. The honey goes unnoticed, but what shines is the quality of the eel, it’s obviously brilliant to eat.
The “Beef Flank Supreme” £12.30, is actually brisket, left to loiter in a cauldron with star anise, fermented beancurd, ginger and other Cantonese ingredients for a long time. When done right, the result is mouth-watering, unctuous and satisfying. This one is lukewarm and is a duff experience, a shame really as I’ve had their oxtail version of the dish many times during my dim sum meals here and it lights the soul.
Minced pork with spicy aubergine hot pot £11.80, arrives in the same vein, on paper, it sounds appetising but the dish arrives at room temperature, which makes it plain underwhelming.
The restaurant owners were racking up the Mahjong to release at the end of the shift.
When did I go? Dec 2016
The damage: Expect to pay £50 per head with a few bottles of Tsing Tao.
The good: On menu some of the dishes scream authenticity, but the result really isn’t that rewarding and compelling enough to come back and try it all again. On the plus side, I will remain loyal to their dim sum as its darn good. Give it a try when you’re in the area.
The bad: I’ve given up on having dinner here.
Would I go again? Only for the dim sum in the day.
Address: 196-198 Stanley Rd, Teddington TW11 8UE