An original, independent review by Maddy Watkins:
I don’t know a single person that doesn’t love a good Chinese, or a good bargain for that matter and the Lotus Lounge appears to satisfy my hunger for both.
I enter, pleasantly surprised by a modern, simple but chic interior, adorned with golden Chinese trinkets and splashes of colour. I receive a warm welcome from a humbling waitress, (whose name I later learn is Heidi). She gives me a step-by step guide to the Lotus Lounge’s extensive menu and clever approach to dining.
“Only established Chinese restaurants can stick to a la carte menus, so most places are caving in to public demand and turning into buffets. What we’ve done seems to be a happy medium” Manager Tak tells me, explaining the origins of Lotus Lounge’s universally pleasing concept – you pay a set price, and choose as many dishes from the menu as you want, which are then cooked to order.
But with a menu consisting of no fewer than 20 starters, 9 soups, a belt-popping 49 mains and 4 desserts, I’m not entirely sure whether to be intimidated, ask for recommendations or to order them all and gorge myself in an effort to test my culinary stamina. Regardless, I am incredibly impressed, especially in the knowledge I shall only be paying £13.90 for the pleasure.
My guest and I order a selection of starters including crispy seaweed, crispy smoked chilli chicken, and deep fried king prawns. Biting into my first mouthful of prawn, I am immediately enamoured by the juicy, sweet meatiness against the crisp batter a combination I welcome with gusto when more accustomed to a soggy lacklustre coating. The seaweed maintains a perfect balance of sweet and salty, with a moreish crunch.
The Tom Kha Chicken Soup I opt for next acts as a perfect palate cleanser with notes of fragrant lemongrass lifting its rich coconut infused base, my taste buds feel positively refreshed and ready for round three.
Next is a warm-up for the main event, the classic ‘aromatic crispy duck with pancakes’ course. Considering duck is normally an expensive ingredient, the generous amount and quality of the meat fleshy pink chunks amidst golden roasted glimmers of crispy skin leaves me wondering how on earth this can all be included at such a modest price.
We ambitiously order nine main dishes between the two of us justifying our sheer greediness with the feeble excuse of getting ‘good value for money’. Highlights include: Thai green chicken curry, beef in black bean sauce, Szechuan pork, mussels and sweet chilli, sweet and sour prawns, squid with spring onions and ginger, with sides of bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, special fried rice, and Pad Thai noodles. Thankfully, individual dishes are only tapas sized, giving us the opportunity to try a little of everything.
Each dish is different, with authentic flavours in particular the pork, with its tangy balance of spices, and the deceptively hot curry which left my delicate mouth longing for the water jug. On top of this, the freshness of ingredients shines through, as does the talent of the chefs to produce such food so quickly.
Despite my now bulging tum being the most obvious impression left, in fact it is the gracious service which I have received consistently throughout this evening that makes the most profound impact. From the moment I curiously step through the door until the moment I waddle back out, service is speedy, efficient and polite.