Chinese cuisine, I have to admit, is rarely top of my list when dining out. It’s all too easy, however, when something isn’t your favourite, to neglect it entirely, and forget how good something can be. Chung Ying Central, one of three restaurants in the Chung Ying group, had been on my radar for a while as having a good reputation and also offering a trendy bar experience in the centre of town, but I’d never gotten round to visiting and choosing Chinese for a meal out. So, when I was invited down to a bloggers’ meal at the restaurant on Colmore Row, I hoped it would remind me how varied and exciting this cuisine can be.
The restaurant decor is modern and stylish, with low lighting and a good atmosphere. The service throughout the evening was friendly and professional. We were greeted with a Shanghai Rose, a martini made with vodka, lychee juice and rose syrup. This cocktail was sickly sweet, but the rose wasn’t overwhelming and the lychee gave it quite a punchy flavour. Later on in the evening we were also served Changyu Golden Diamond Vidal ice wine, which was a sweet dessert wine that was beautifully delicate and aromatic.
The first veggie dish was Ma Por Tofu, made with silken tofu in a rich, salty sauce packed with mushrooms. I don’t usually go for tofu, but this dish reminded me that, done well, it can be a real winner. This tofu was soft and slid down your throat, and there was certainly plenty of it on the plate. The second tofu dish, Pei Par Tofu, wasn’t as much to my liking. Again, beautifully silky tofu, but deep friend in a batter that was soggy rather than crisp. This meant that altogether it was all a bit too soft, and the lack of a crispy contrast felt like a missed opportunity.
Up next I was served king prawns in salt and chilli. This time, the batter was wonderfully crispy, and there was a generous portion of juicy prawns. The simple seasoning was really effective, and there was a decent amount of heat from the chilli without it overpowering the flavour of the prawns. We were also served vegetarian fried rice, which was a perfect accompaniment and had a subtle salty taste.
For dessert, we were spoilt with water chestnut paste, two types of brownie and steamed caramel buns. The caramel buns were like nothing I’d had before; light, eggy and sweet, they were a really nice ending to a fairly heavy meal, and it was great to have something so authentic. Similarly, the water chestnut paste was a nice surprise. This jelly-like dessert had a distinctive, refreshing flavour that really cleansed the palette. I tried the salted caramel brownie, which was out of this world. If you’re not into rich desserts then steer clear, but if you like your mix of sweet and salty in a decadent, gooey slab then you need to try this. I did think it was an odd choice for a Chinese restaurant, and they’re not made by Chung Ying themselves, but after the first bite I couldn’t care less.
Overall, the food at Chung Ying Central went down really well. It was great to try some really different, authentic dishes in a stylish, urban environment, and it certainly caters well for vegetarians. If you’re a fan of Chinese food and are looking for somewhere that provides something a bit more swanky than China Town, then Chung Ying Central is your place. With an extensive dim sum menu and plenty more cocktails to try, I will certainly be back. Thank you to everyone at Chung Ying Central for having us!