Success and fame are pretty much instantaneous these days but surely the newly-opened Crispy Duck Café in Broomhill, Sheffield, is a little OTT?
The menu and flyers invite customers to try “our world famous aromatic crispy duck.”
World famous? The Crispy Duck Cafe itself isn’t even known throughout Broomhill, let alone Bristol, Baltimore or Brisbane,
Duck here comes half a dozen ways besides the obvious one with pancakes and hoi sin sauce. Try it with marmalade or crab meat sauce.
It is also shredded for you at the table, a traditional little bit of restaurant theatre, rather than sent out already done, as some Chinese restaurants seem to do now.
But we have never had it shredded for us by a girl from Transylvania. “It’s a case of Duckula not Dracula,” whispered my wife as our charming Romanian waitress Gabby finished the job.
The duck was plentiful, the flesh moist, the skin crisp and there were an even number of pancakes (not always the case).
It was a good dish for an £8.50 quarter portion but I wouldn’t want to sing from the rooftops that this particular offering deserved world fame.
The Crispy Duck used to be the ChiChaInn owned by David Chan so I rang him for a chat. Why was he calling it world famous?
“Crispy duck is famous all over the world. We sell it. I suppose you could read it that way!”
For some reason he neglected to tell me he had sold on the restaurant before it reopened.
When I did make contact with the new boss, Mei Tsui, she laughed at the misunderstanding.
“That’s David. I’ll kill him!”
Not if I get there first, Mei.
Here’s another oddity, there are sections for tofu, vegetables, fish, chicken, beef, lamb, noodles and, of course, duck dishes on the menu but no pork, unless you count the dim sum pork dumplings.
Now the Chinese are the world’s greatest eaters of pork. We Brits with our bacon butties are a long way down the table.
When we pointed it out to the restaurant manager on the night he seemed genuinely baffled by the absence of pork – so much so that he went to show it to head chef Hao.
There is plenty of it on the accompanying Big Plates menu aimed at students and which will be familiar to anyone who has eaten at any of David’s string of Chinese restaurants (he has half a dozen eateries and cake shops), which was another reason for thinking he was the boss
ChiChaInn went because in David’s words it was “too upmarket. Students looked in and walked past. We only got customers at the weekend and that didn’t pay.”
The décor is much the same although the display cabinet of scrumptious-looking cakes (he also owns several branches of Cake R Us) has been replaced by an aquarium full of fish.
“I thought it would improve my feng shui,” said David. Mei says the cabinet had gone before she took over.
The semi-open kitchen is still behind a glass wall. We didn’t have to ask if chef Hao was cooking because we knew what he looked like. His photograph is etched on the window like Marco Pierre White’s image at his new restaurant on West Bar Green.
We went on a very quiet midweek evening so perhaps news of the world famous duck was taking time to get abroad but we still enjoyed ourselves.
There are set meals but it’s always fun going off-piste. We tried a Cantonese hot pot, a stew of fish and aubergines (£9.20).
I find the Chinese can be very inventive with this vegetable.
The aubergine chunks took on a surprising denseness while the fish was very soft but still held its shape, all in a pleasing spicy sauce,
There are only a couple of lamb dishes on the menu: we had sliced fillet in fragrant yellow bean sauce (£8.50). The slices were cut thickly and the chillied sauce had a sweet edge.
Sizzling chicken (£9) was ordered because my wife wanted a little drama at the table. She got it.
We rounded things off with egg fried rice (£2.50) and, to keep costs down, ordered jasmine tea (£2) to drink with it.
We liked what we ate although there were just a few too many crunchy green tops of leek or spring onion in the dishes.
As you read this David’s culinary empire is about to expand and he is opening a new Chinese buffet plus street food eatery on Division Street, Kung Foo Noodles. Or he says he is . . .
As for Mei, this is her first restaurant and if an aquarium really improves feng shui let’s hope it works for her.
We paid £39.70.