Spurred on by childhood memories, our reviewer seeks to do justice to the Peking Duck at Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall’s in house restaurant, the Golden Dragon
Review by Nicolas Payne – Baader
One of my parent’s most oft repeated tales of me as a child is the story of when I was a boy of about five or six and we were on holiday in Hong Kong. Recommended by a familly friend, we went to one of Hong Kong’s most famed and august establishments to have some real authentic Roast Peking duck. We commenced the meal, I was on my best behaviour and quite possibly wearing a little bow tie. The waiters and waitresses, as so often happened in Asia when I was a child, were already slightly taken with me as I was a small, extremely blond and slightly rotund: a little chap with a large appetite.
It was however when the Peking duck was served that I really managed to steal the show. Taking into account that at this age I would already routinely pass by ponds and gently murmur “mmm delicious” when looking at the ducks, fully expecting them to be soon be feeding me rather than the other way round there were clear signs that I was about to eat a farcical amount of poultry. The meal turned out to be something akin to a culinary phantasmagoria for a lad at such an impressionable age. A seemingly endless supply of my favourite food and a group of lovely waiters and waitresses who only appeared to become more excited the more I ate, glaring happy and excited like punters watching a Vegas craps player go on an ever increasing winning streak. It is a slight matter of familial debate how much duck I actually consumed but it’s fair to say that given the encouragement of an ever increasing and wide eyed proportion of the staff and possibly quite a few of the fellow diners, it was something of a command performance. After this bacchanalia of poultry I retired, truly spent and satisfied in a way it would take many years and considerable effort to replicate. Several hours later, I allegedly got up and heading as swiftly as possible to the bathroom and returned a great deal of the duck back to the waters from whence they came. To this day and through many retellings of this story I have never been able to recall that part of the story, everything leading up to it yes, but of the ensuing sickness I have not a jot.
This, slightly long winded, introduction is not to say that I view food with rose tinted glasses but rather to confess and expound the fact that Cantonese cuisine and especially Peking Duck has and always will have a special place in my heart. It was therefore with a considerable amount of excitement that I made my way to Colindale to visit Golden Dragon, the latest undertaking of Royal China the Baker Street institution. Colindale is not a spot best known for anything really but it is equally not a place that you would expect to find excellent Chinese Food. Somewhere in the diaspora between Golders Green and Brent Cross in North London the area is a slightly Ballardian jumble of newly built apartments, mainly luxury with a small L. In amongst this is the newly rebuilt Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall and the 300 cover Golden Dragon below it. The development is surprisingly large, although I’m not sure what I expected from it the whole complex takes in the huge foodhall upstairs, the restaurant as well as an adjacent Asian supermarket.
The first thing that struck me walking in to Golden Dragon was that it was busy, not completely full but by far more seats taken than empty and by an almost exclusively Asian clientèle, this is also Monday, at one o’clock in the afternoon. If the adage of choosing a Chinese restaurant on the nationality of its clientèle is true then this review is surplus to requirements.
The menu is almost as large as the restaurant, split into dim sum and a main menu a la carte menu with additional set menus available. Feeling quite confident about both the quality of food and me and my companion’s ability to eat the sort of quantities of Chinese food normally reserved for small villages and visiting armies, we liberally decide to try and fit as much as possible starting with the dim sum. The menu features a reassuring variety of classics as well as several items I have only been able to try on visits to Hong Kong. Once such item is the chicken’s feet in black bean sauce, although my lunching companion looked askance at me as well as the foot with a mixture of betrayal, disgust and bewilderment, a set of emotions only strengthen with each chicken’s toe element extracted during the chewing process, the feet are in fact delicious. An excellent black bean sauce with just a hint of a kick is liberally smothered over the gelatinous and flavourful feet.
Next up we have the Char Sui Bao: sweet pastry pork buns. This is a dish that can go really fairly wrong fairly quickly but equally can be a revelation and a pleasure. The buns arrive, a lovely thickness and size, perfectly browned. The inside does not disappoint and the perfect lightness of pastry gives way to the ideal sweetness of filling, the pastry so light it would earn the respect of a most ardent and jingoistic French pastry chef. The dim sum continues with pork Cheung Fun (the ones that constantly slip off your chop sticks whilst eating them) that are classically good although arguably not as stand out as the first two options, perfectly executed Har Gao that are a refined blast of fresh prawn flavour.
Although the realisation is starting to kick in that I have done the typical and idiotic sin of eating Chinese and ordered a silly amount of food, a slight feeling of fullness starts to creep in right as the impeccably efficient and reassuringly terse staff come to bring round two. Next arrives the Peking Duck, the true test, the piece de resistance, to join the canon of my culinary excesses. Aesthetically the Duck is beautiful, huge chunks of meat that glisten in perfectly unctuous beauty, great oleaginous sheets of skin are perched on top of the already well endowed slices and the whole plate gives off the blindingly delicious aroma that can wash away any thoughts of clean eating, veganism, or puritanism in a single stroke. Once on plate the duck is everything that you would hope for, with perhaps the only drawback being that the tensile strength of Chinese pancakes is not exactly that of sheet metal and there are some structural issues that arise from me trying to put an inordinate of duck in every mouthful. That is to take nothing away from the dish, too often Roast Peking duck is an embarrassment of fat and an underwhelming and expensive folly. This is neither, this is the dish that brings back the rush of pleasure of my chioldhood, although I am no longer as round or as blond as I was this is an example of pure joy refined and condensed in to one perfectly executed dish; a blast of memory and childish glee and if a dish can give you that then it’s certainly worth going to Colindale for.
Meal for two – £30 per head including tea and service
Enquiries: Golden Dragon, downstairs in Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall, 399 Edgeware Road, Colindale, London NW9 0FH / 0208 2058333 / www.bangbangoriental.com/