Review: Charlie Chan

Chinese cuisine of a very high quality

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Charlie Chan, which has been open and appreciated for the past 33 years, is one of the oldest restaurants in Cambridge, and offers a huge variety of high quality dishes, with a main focus on Cantonese cuisine.

However, the establishment constantly expands its menu to include dishes originating from all over China. The ‘Zhimo’ menu, named after the Chinese poet who attended King’s College, offers a taste of Shanghai and includes items such as shredded jelly fish, pig’s trotters and steamed aubergine. Choosing what to eat from the extensive menus (plural intended) was a task in itself. Prizes to anyone who manages to try everything on them*.

Read up on Zhimo by the entrance

Read up on Zhimo by the entrance

Feeling like we were up for the challenge of a large meal, we ordered sweet and sour prawns, braised pork belly with preserved vegetables, sizzling chicken with black bean sauce (which did sizzle in a very exciting way), stir-fried french beans with preserved olives, egg fried rice and fried noodles with beansprouts.

The majestic entrance of the chicken

The majestic entrance of the chicken

Clemmy, a self-confessed french bean lover, tells me on good authority that these were the best she’s ever tasted. Apparently, they are a firm favourite with those who don’t even like vegetables. Great praise indeed.

Spot the beans

Me with the French beans

The braised pork belly was another winner, with the meat being tender to such a degree that we found it a little difficult to pick up with our chopsticks (but the challenge was more than worth it and left us with a tremendous sense of achievement). The food was incredibly flavoursome and the portions generous.

We drank tea with the meal: I tried the Jasmine and Clemmy opted for the Oolong tea. Both are recommended, though there is a wide selection of other drinks/ types of tea as well. Whether you’re into light and delicate, or strong and earthy, there is a tea for you at Charlie Chan.

Gentle tones

Golden tones

After we had finished our main course, we thought we would not be able to eat anything else for days. Then, we were offered ice cream and decided that we could.

The ice-creams were really unique with, as owner Richard explained to us, an unusually high milk concentration compared to your average ice-cream filled with artificial sweeteners. The flavours on offer include black sesame, vietnamese coffee, stem ginger, green tea and durian. If you haven’t heard of durian, it’s a fruit which ‘smells like gas’ so strongly that it isn’t allowed on public transport in some places.

This was quite strange in ice-cream form.

Despite the smell being eerily reminiscent of gas, the taste is really good, as well as being unlike anything I’ve tried before, though my favourite flavour had to be the black sesame, which was refreshing  and had a slightly gritty texture (that may sound odd, but it works).

All in all, Charlie Chan is a great place to go for a meal out. The large menu size means you can splash out for a special dinner, or grab a well-priced lunch. I couldn’t help but notice, as I looked around, the impressive amount of diners who had turned up at early lunchtime, and the huge variety of dishes coming out of the kitchen.

The couple next to us ordered a steaming plate of seafood noodles

The couple next to us ordered a steaming plate of seafood noodles

You will find Charlie Chan a few doors down from Spoons, and it would be a crime, especially for Downing and Emma students, not to take a visit there.

*Prize is just personal glory

Charlie Chan Restaurant

14 Regent Street, Cambridge, CB2 1DB

01223 359 336