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283 High Street,
Telephone: 0121 427 7666
It was halfway through the dim sum platter at Henry Wong that I realised I’d never before eaten really good Cantonese food. The slow-cooked chilli ribs, panko-crumbed wasabi prawns, crispy won tons and delicately sweet prawn dumplings (£15.75) politely but firmly knocked the socks off every greasy takeaway that masquerades as authentic Chinese.
The quality of the cooking explains why this mainstay of the Harborne food scene has survived for some thirty years. That, plus the exemplary service.
We rolled up an hour late due to a booking confusion. Unfazed, the hostess was all warm welcomes and smiles. With a chilled riesling pushed into my hands, I relaxed to the soft tones of Wong’s resident lounge singer as she worked her way through the great American songbook. So discreet was she that my partner hadn’t realised that the music was live and taking place right behind his chair.
Back to the food. The honey pepper chicken dish featured deep-fried nuggets of joy, full of pepper flavour without head-blowing heat (£10.95). They worked well with the fried beef with black bean (£9.50) and baby pak choy (£9.50), which came fresh and green and crunchy. The Shanghai fried rice with pak choy and mushrooms (£5.25) was another revelation, full of flavour whilst retaining that fluffy lightness of perfect steamed grains. Dessert isn’t something you expect with Chinese cuisine. At Wong’s, however, you can choose a chocolate mousse - expertly styled into a chocolate-framed pyramid - or ice cream macaroons. Or, of course, banana fritters, hot and crispy and smothered in caramel.
Henry Wong isn’t cheap - but with cooking of this quality, nor should it be. The dining room would benefit from some colour, I feel, to break up the tasteful shades of taupe and beige.
This is just the kind of neighbourhood restaurant that everyone wants in their own town. For a grown-up yet relaxed evening out, put Henry Wong on the go-to list.
Review by Helen Stallard