It seems like ages since the Hong Kong Express opened in Newport, and whilst chatting to the staff in the new bar at that time Matt and Cat were amazed and delighted to discover that yet another HKE was on its way to Freshwater.
Well, a while passed and no new restaurant opened. Matt and Cat were beginning to wonder if it had been a dream. But then they heard the news: it was true, Hong Kong Express in Freshwater was indeed open. So an interesting challenge for M & C – as dedicated HKE fans they would obviously be drawn to try the new place, but it was in far-off Freshwater, and so to get to it they’d need to drive past not one but two other Hong Kong Express restaurants… quite a challenge for the hungry travellers.
Still, they finally made it one wet February night. They drove expectantly down the main street of Freshwater, peering right and left for the familiar logo, and were delighted to see the welcoming lights twinkling in a charming shop-front opposite Somerfield. Matt and Cat found a space in the nearby car park then strolled in to the sparkling new restaurant to see if the latest Hong Kong Express could live up the the high standards of its fellows.
A few diners were already enjoying the venue as staff eagerly stepped forward to welcome their new customers. Matt and Cat were shown to a prime spot right in front of the massive TV screen. Uh-oh. Now, please, readers, search your souls. Do you actually enjoy dining out in front of the TV? Do you really? The question is posed because Matt and Cat are starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with them. Every new restaurant that opens has a bigger and better TV, and surely these canny restaurateurs wouldn’t shell out for such hardware if everyone detested it as much as your reviewers do? Anyhow Hong Kong Express certainly accommodate those who prefer no telly: M & C made their wishes known and immediately the polite staff ushered them away from the intrusive box into the back of the restaurant, a much more intimate area where quiet dining is possible. They knew they had a good spot when they saw somebody who looked a lot like Michael Hang, proprietor of the whole Hong Kong Express empire, dining at the next table with some business colleagues.
Prawn crackers £1.80
Chicken with green pepper and black bean sauce £5.40
Chicken chow mein £4.40
Fried seasonable vegetables £3.40
The HKE menu is almost superfluous to Matt and Cat these days. To enable a direct comparison with the other branches they ordered their favourites: prawn crackers, chicken chow mein, chicken with green pepper and black bean sauce, and a side order of fried seasonable vegetables. M & C had an unresolved discussion about the difference, if any, between ‘seasonal’ and ‘seasonable’ vegetables (see some explanation here). Certainly at HKE the seasonable vegetables are always the same – and always delicious. Still, it later turned out that the eager diners might have been better advised to study the menu more carefully, as the prices at HKE Freshwater proved to be slightly higher than in Ryde and Newport – although still very good value.
Soon enough the food arrived, and it was as anticipated. Matt enjoyed his piquant chicken with green pepper and black bean sauce, and Cat picked happily at her comfortably familiar chicken chow mein. If they’d closed their eyes they could almost have imagined themselves in Ryde or Newport; the food was consistently good. The seasonable vegetables were as searingly hot as ever, and were the perfect accompaniment to the strong flavours of the main meals.
The splendid meal was enlivened by an unusual diversion – suddenly there was a noise from the front of the building, and then a gust of air seemed to blow through the back room. When M & C looked up, a napkin was still fluttering to the ground and Mr Hang was nowhere to be seen. His two fellow diners were left looking at each other. “Where did he go?” one asked in bemusement. “Search me!” replied his companion. The mystery was resolved some minutes later when the proprietor strolled back, brushing himself down and possibly breathing slightly more heavily then before. “A few kids knocking on my window” he murmured with a wry smile. “Did you catch up with them?” asked his colleague. “Oh yes.” was the reply. The genteel calm of the Hong Kong Express was safely restored.
Matt and Cat finished their dinner and settled up. They were happy to give the Freshwater branch of the expanding empire their seal of approval: this is as good a Hong Kong Express meal as one could have anywhere – recommended unreservedly.
Hong Kong Express, Freshwater