I wonder what was going through Alan Yau’s mind when he decided to combine a Chinese restaurant with a pub. Not exactly a marriage made in heaven; the only connections I can think of are that beer is often served in one, and deep fried nibbles such as spring rolls and wontons can sometimes be found in the other. Sensible people wouldn’t put money on that kind of thing succeeding in London’s cut throat restaurant scene, but Mr Yau’s Duck and Rice doesn’t need the sensible people. A few years old now, it seems to be doing just fine.
Personally, I think the interpretation of ‘pub’ has been creative. It has many features synonymous with a pub: plenty of beers on tap, snacks to soak up those drinks, nooks and crannies to lean on… but this is much slicker, and sexier even, than any local boozer I’ve been to. But do I care? Not one bit, the atmosphere is swish and the smells wafting around are good… just get me some food to go with my beer, pronto.
I’m ashamed to admit that for a second year running, Chinese New Year has somehow managed to slip my radar! If a friend hadn’t asked me what I had planned for it, I wouldn’t have known it was just around the corner… while we’re at it, which charming animal are we celebrating again?! This is quite an embarrassing confession considering I’ve celebrated this for as long as I can remember.
Five year old me was probably most excited about getting dressed up in a new outfit, most likely an attention grabbing red number, to ring in the new year. Ten year old me would have been eagerly anticipating the feasts my parents would put on, inviting all the aunties and uncles, both real ones and pretend ones (those of you from Asian families will know what I mean) for an evening of indulgence. Fifteen year old me would have definitely been hanging out for the little red envelopes filled with cold hard cash for that nice little shopping spree or day out with friends.
My earliest yum cha memories involve Sunday lunches with my family at one of the many Chinese restaurants along Courtenay Place in Wellington.
They were usually gluttonous affairs; though there were only five of, us, we each had our favourites and would not be satisfied without ordering our dish. Sometimes this was easier said than done… there were the days where you got seated at a dud table the servers never came past, or perhaps you would be next after a huge group who took everything, or worst of all, that particular restaurant didn’t even serve the dish you were craving!
Then fast forward some years, though I’m not exactly sure when it happened, yum cha became cool. The monopoly Chinese restaurants had was eroded by trendy places serving jazzed up replicas for twice the price and at night. You didn’t have to wait until weekend lunches to get your fix of steamed dumplings… you could indulge at dinner time with a drink far less cleansing than jasmine tea.