Sunday 20 January 2008

The Phoenix Palace, Glentworth Street, near Baker Street, London

A sprawling, yet plush, Chinese restaurant, the Phoenix Palace is packed at weekends with both ethnic Chinese and Anglo-Saxon diners from noon to late into the afternoon. The businesslike waiting staff show you to a table covered by a white cloth and surrounded by ornate wooden chairs. Hanging from the ceiling are intricate Chinese lanterns and the walls are decorated with traditional prints. The choice of dishes is bewildering - the dim sum menu alone is several pages long and there are scores of main courses on offer. Even though a dim sum dish costs just a few quid, each one is big enough to act as a starter and most are delicious. The Shanghai dumpling, the paper wrap prawns, the pork buns and the prawn sesame toast are particularly good, while the beef dumplings, which can taste oily, are disappointing. Among the main courses, avoid anything containing the almost obnoxious salt fish and watch out for the rather bony chicken dishes. The Kung Po Prawn (£9.90), served with sweet peppers and peanuts, is a fun combination of flavours. If you order too much, ask the waiters to pack up the remains in a doggy bag. You can wash it all down with a bottle from the extensive wine list or a pint of lager or bottle of sparking water (both £3). Even though service is an extra 12.5%, the Phoenix Palace is good value, particularly if you are lucky enough to select some of the better dishes. 7/10