|Last Orders||Mon-Sat 11 pm, Sun 10 pm|
"Amazing value and great abundance. The dim sun tastes exactly like everyone else's dim sun and it's served with great efficiency and no messing about. It's a cavernous place but packed at Sunday lunchtime yet there's no sense of overcrowding. A vast meal for 4 cost only £90 including 5 chinese beers."
London's ethnic mix is endlessly confusing. Everyone knows that Southwark has large Black African and Black Caribbean populations. But did you know it's one of the city's top Chinese hot-spots? (London's only ward in to have more than 5% Chinese population, is turns out, is nearby Millwall in Tower Hamlets.)
The lunchtime population at this improbably large and grand new Elephant & Castle Chinese seemed a fair reflection of the prevailing local mix - half black and half oriental (plus the Harden table). It will be interesting to see if more visitors from outside the area soon feature in the mix, because this place looks set to become a true benchmark, easily rivalling the behemoths of Chinatown, and perhaps even Bayswater.
First, this large, lofty and brightly-lit chamber, brightly decorated in yellow, certainly looks the part. And on the steamy day we visited, with cold air cascading from the overhead air conditioners, we certainly felt we were in a location much more exotic than south London.
Second, service - always polite, efficient, and with more than a hint of a smile - was a very welcome change from your standard Chinatown indifference going-on hostility.
Third, the food. Well, to be honest it would take a week to eat through the menu here, which comes complete with pretty much all the Cantonese classic dishes you've ever heard of, plus a few fusion numbers. So we can only claim to have skimmed the surface. What we can say, however, is that absolutely everything we had - including dim sum from the extensive lunchtime menu - was realised to a standard equalled by relatively few other Chinese restaurants around town.
Whether you're looking for a emblem of multi-cultural London - of just a decent Chinese dinner - you're unlikely to do much better than here.
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