Note: this van is still around at times, but not any more at the site we originally reviewed it. It doesn’t seem to have a regular spot any more.
Matt and Cat are fans of the Hong Kong Express chain of Chinese restaurants.
Starting in Ryde, the brand spread westwards to Newport and Freshwater. Each new venue provided fast, fresh Chinese food in the distinctive Hong Kong Express style. Perhaps not the first choice for an intimate romantic tryst – say – but if you want to eat well in short order then it’s hard to beat.
One thing M&C have noticed is that as it gets slicker, Hong Kong Express has got just a little bit more impersonal. At one time it was possible not only to get that great Chinese nosh, but also for the friendly staff to greet you, seat you and even sometimes remember what you ordered last time. These days, sometimes it does feel a little like being on the production line (although some restaurants use conveyor belts to good effect!) . But hey, the food’s still good. So it was with some excitement that Matt discovered from co-workers in his office that the Hong Kong Express bandwagon was still on the move, with the opening of a mobile catering unit at Vectawarm on the Dodnor industrial estate, right near Matt’s workplace. A lunchtime excursion was clearly in order.
Radio 4 listeners amongst you may have heard the Food Programme reporting enthusiastically about Los Angeles’ street-food scene. Enterprising vendors, cooking mostly ethnic foods, are taking their good-value produce into the community. Some are established restaurateurs keen to peddle their wares beyond their particular neighbourhood and to a new audience. Unlike some of the Island’s mobile caterers, LA’s food trucks are not parked at a permanent static location so they create a buzz on Twitter, alerting customers to their exact whereabouts. The food truck phenomenon is set to go global and, with Hong Kong Express On Wheels, the Island could be at the forefront of this growing trend.
Matt confidently approached the little van on a sunny afternoon, and found himself the only customer. In a moment, he was transported back to the old-style Hong Kong Express experience of delicious hot food delivered with grace and speed. A charmingly chatty lady was presiding in the tiny kitchen, and she wasted no time in finding out what Matt wanted and firing up the burners. The menu was prominently displayed on the side of the van, and it included not only a surprisingly wide range of Chinese staple dishes, but also an English menu featuring reassuringly workmanlike burgers, hot baguettes and jacket potatoes. Matt was tempted by the bacon baguette, a bargain at £1.75, but having come to the Hong Kong Express, he was not going to miss the opportunity for something a little more exotic.
Chicken fried rice (full size) £4.90
Interestingly, the portions were priced as ‘Full Size’ and ‘Handy Size’. The former were round about £5.20, the latter more like £3. Matt was tempted by chow mein, or maybe chicken curry, but eventually went for a full size chicken fried rice. This arrived very promptly, and was dispensed in a typical Tupperware-style takeaway container with napkins and a little plastic fork. Matt set off back to the office to consume it in comfort – and found on the way that the only problem with such freshly cooked food is carrying it without singeing one’s hands!
Back at his desk Matt unpacked his lunch to the interest of his colleagues, who’d already been enthusiastically patronising the little van themselves. The perfectly-cooked egg-fried rice was supplemented with plenty of moist chicken pieces, and tasted great. The meal was just as good as the restaurant original, and Matt even had to confess that ‘full size’ was a bit over the top even for him: the very reasonably-priced ‘handy size’ would probably have been enough.
So top marks for another new Hong Kong Express success. It’s handily-placed, good value, good food, and good service.