There is a reason London is considered one of the greatest gastronomical cities in the world today.
Over the past few decades, immigrants from all over the world had infiltrated UK and brought their cuisines along with their exotic ingredients. Want to have some Vietnamese food? It’s there. Ethopian? Yes. Peruvian? Of course!
Londoners are spoilt for choice. Competition is fierce and bad restaurants die a swift death. In contrast unique ones win the adoration of food bloggers who can create quite the social media buzz.
However, the further away you move out of London, with the exception of other big cities, the scene gets rather depressing. There are the usual plethora of pubs to choose from and each town has its share of Indian, Chinese, Italian and maybe Turkish eateries.
After having a few bad meals I gave up eating out locally altogether but recently changed my mind. Good eateries in Essex, such as The Magic Mushroom, are few and far between but I’m intent on finding them. Let’s start with my local Chinese restaurant…
At 12pm on a Sunday afternoon we walked in The Great Wall. The place was completely empty and the waiter handed us the special Sunday to Thursday menu. Three courses for £8.50 which comprises a starter, main course, egg fried rice and stir-fried vegetables which didn’t look bad on paper but left a feeling of suspicion. We opted for the main menu instead.
After having visited this establishment a few times I can safely advise to avoid the starters, except the Chicken & Sweetcorn Soup. Most items travel from the freezer straight into the deep fryer, coming out as shrivelled, greasy things that don’t belong on a plate. The spring rolls heave with oil and sadly is mostly filled with cabbage.
A quarter of the Aromatic Duck came at a hefty price of £9.20. It had a crispy skin but the meat was dried out. Annoyingly our pancakes all stuck together in one big lump and it was an art not to literally tear them apart.
Relatively speaking, main courses are The Great Wall’s strong point. Sweet & Sour Chicken (£6.20) are covered in a thin batter, dubbed Hong-Kong style, and the sauce pleasing. A classic dish loved by the western world.
The Shanghai Filet Steak & Cashews (£8.50) came with a great, attractive dark, spicy sauce but a third of the meat was unforgivably chewy.
There is something exciting about the sizzling plates where a variety of meats and sauces are on offer. Dodge the Orange & Cointreau Sauce though, which tastes mostly of orange squash. A firm favourite is the Sizzling Duck with Kung Po Sauce (£9.10).
Lastly, the Pork Chow Mein is a steal for just £4.50 and contained a lot of meat. The noodles were soft but not oilyand is definitely one of the better offerings of Pork Chow Mein out there.
With not much competition and country folk not being very fussy, this expression comes to mind: “In the land of the blind the one-eyed man (The Great Wall) is king”. It can do better.
4/10: Four out of the twelve dishes we have tried were good.
6/10: The duck pancakes are one the pricy side. Other dishes were of good size. The sizzling platters you pay for the show, because plain Kung Po Duck costs £3 less on the menu.
5/10: Friendly enough but even though restaurant wasn’t busy we waited quite long to have plates removed and no initiative was shown in the drinks department and we had to ask for our drinks. Gratuity was automatically added to the bill, a pet peeve of mine, even though we were just a table of two.
3/10: As I walked in my shoes stuck to the floor. Very utilitarian and door lock was not in working order, which rendered the toilet unusable.
4/10: Quite cramped. The music selection was an odd mix of 80-90’s music, including Bloodhound Gang and Spice Girls, which was all a bit surreal.
5/10: You’re safe ordering Chicken & Sweetcorn Soup and Sweet & Sour Chicken. Order anything else at your own risk.
The Great Wall
6 East Street