If EastEnders had a Chinese restaurant, it would be the Mandarin Palace. Clichéd Chinese motifs – jade-green ceramic screens, vases, dark woods and pretty lanterns – fill the restaurant, and there’s even a (spotlessly clean) carpet underfoot, all of which makes the space feel comfortable and homely. It’s a feeling heightened by the friendly staff, who chat and gossip with the numerous regulars.
And the food is a delight. Set menus, including the likes of steamed fresh scallops and baked lobster, are tempting, as are dishes such as hotpot with jellyfish and crispy eel with honey sauce, but we visited on a Sunday, so opted for a mix of dim sum and main courses. Dim sum portions were generous, and included light-as-air cha siu bao, and plump, delicious har gau and siu mai. A plate of three mixed meats was tasty and plentiful. Vegetables are pricey, starting around £7, but are offset by distinctly good value in other dishes – the dim sum, in particular, is cheaper than in most West End restaurants, and served with a laid-back air that you rarely find in frantic Chinatown counterparts.