Late on a wet Sunday evening on the last day of the summer season, Matt and Cat imagined they’d be lucky to find anywhere to eat in Sandown that wasn’t closed or nearly empty. So the bright lights of the Royal China were a welcome sight. Even when much of the rest of the High Street was putting up the shutters this stylish Chinese restaurant was bustling with customers.
Matt and Cat were courteously greeted and shown to a luxuriously-appointed table in the interior of the restaurant. Soft carpet, not laminate floor, complemented the quiet and sophisticated décor. Linen tablecloths and ornately-folded linen napkins adorned the spacious table, which also boasted fresh flowers and lacquered wooden chopsticks – not disposable ones. The Royal China managed to impress before the food was even on the table.
A quick glance through the neatly bound menu revealed no surprises except an unusual seasonal seafood section with lobster and sea-bass. Passing over this Matt and Cat decided to splash out on starters, and chose crispy seaweed and sesame prawn toast; followed by main courses of chicken and cashew nuts for Cat, and beef with green pepper and black bean sauce for Matt.
Both courses came at exactly the right time – and indeed this was typical of the outstanding service at the Royal China. A host of courteous and friendly staff were in attendance but somehow never managed to intrude. The wait was never too long, nor was anything rushed.
The seaweed and prawn toast was tasty and up to the mark. The toast came with a token salad garnish featuring an ornately-carved radish – impressive presentation. However whilst awaiting the main course Matt and Cat saw a sight that eclipsed their puny radish – a couple of businessmen eating on a nearby table had elected to share a lobster platter, which was carried out to them with no small ceremony. This good-looking dish was colossal, came with no end of bowls and implements, and the ornately-dressed plate even featured an intricate little Chinese figurine made (as the helpful waitress explained on request) out of salt dough. Whilst seafood is not really Matt and Cat’s forte, they could not fail to be impressed by the panache of this audacious dish.
Their appetites well-whetted, Matt and Cat were pleased when the main courses arrived and they set to. Both proved to be excellent, and the decent portions of fried rice were particularly good. Matt’s beef was delightfully tender, and the subtly-flavoured sauce was not overwhelmed by the salty black beans. Cat’s chicken with cashews was well-doused in sweet hoi-sin based sauce, but retained enough texture to be a well-balanced dish.
When the bill came, it was more than reasonable for such great service and a splendid meal. For a quick, value chinese the Hong Kong Express still reigns supreme, but Matt and Cat strolled out of the Royal China satisfied that they had discovered the best high-class Chinese restaurant on the Island.