Thursday, 13 November 2014

I'm not 18 anymore

There I was today at the famous Wong Kei retaurant in London's Soho, a place I first visited when I was 18. In those days, the waiters only spoke Chinese and the menu was also in Chinese only. How I managed to order anything then remains a mystery but it is an enduring memory of my youth. I was 18 a long time ago and the Wong Kei has hardly changed its decor in all those years- still anti everything, the waiters remain surly as they direct diners to the communal tables, covered in uninviting plastic tablecloths. That's the fun of this old establishment which traditionally was the preferred eatery of the Chinese community in Soho. A pot of green tea is provided free of charge and the meal arrives within minutes from the basement kitchen drawn up by a dumb waiter. I ate my favourite- a huge plate of boiled rice and sweet and sour pork. Dean Street, famous for its cinema and media companies and The Groucho Club, is just up the road. Everyone and from all walks of life can be found eating at the Wong Kei- it stays open straight into the early morning too so ideal for inebriated partygoers falling out of the nearby clubs. I shared my table today with a nurse heading home after a marathon 18 hour shift. She ate her bowl of noodles and soup without wanting to really chat. Some things never change- the Wong Kei resolutely refuses to be hip, fashionable or remotely special. It has steadfastly remained an old-style eating house with no frills. And remember- cash only.

London's Soho at dusk and The Wong Kei.
Photos copyright SvD.

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