Probably every blogger, particularly halal food blogger, has had their say on the new (or should I say pretty old now) PF Chang’s in Leicester Square. The reviews verdicts have ranged from mediocre, to quite good at best. Now reading these made me quite apprehensive about trying another overhyped restaurant, where the bill probably reflects the location, as opposed to the quality of food. Nonetheless, armed with the promise of some decent pictures, I decided to go here anyway. Hey, at least I could tick it off my list of places to try (and get rid of the nagging feeling at the back of my head that maybe I may be missing out).
PF Chang’s, located in Leicester Square, where to be honest, halal places are not as common, is a welcome franchise to the London Halal Food Scene (and quite easy to find being located quite centrally). It’s more famous halal counterpart, in Dubai (and it’s origins from the United States), is much loved and the legendary Dynamite Shrimp has probably been instagrammed more often than the London Eye (okay probably not, but my Instagram feed has been full of it for the past few months to the point where I’ve been dreaming about it, almost like the Milktrain hype). They serve Alcohol and Pork so if you do not dine in alcohol serving establishments, then unfortunately this is not the place for you.
I have probably mentioned numerous times that I have quite a small appetite. Unfortunately my food partner for this particular trip, was also someone who ate even less then I did, so when it came to ordering food, I was restricted to ordering just one thing. It was at this point I sorely missed my husband (my usual dining partner) who I know would pretty much hoover up anything I decided I was too full to eat (aka not to my liking). Knowing I could probably stomach one main dish, I asked for recommendations of the best dishes and quickly settled on the Mongolian Beef and Kung Pao Chicken. For drinks, I opted for a Mocktail named Pomegranate Cosmo.
When we entered, it was completely empty as Lunch service had just begun. I don’t mind empty restaurants, and although there were no other customers present, the restaurant did not feel quiet and eerie like other places I’ve been to and still had a nice atmosphere. The decor was trendy and clean, with a warm feel. The staff members were warm and welcoming and could not be helpful enough. My starter plates were replaced promptly and my table cleared for the next course pretty quickly. I was offered water on arrival (yes this is a nice touch) and the gap between the starters and main course was long enough for my stomach to feel comfortably empty to tackle the main course.
For starters, we ordered the ever popular Dynamite Shrimp. Now I would love to tell you this is overhyped and doesn’t live up to expectation, but I would be lying. The shrimp/ prawns were large and crispy. They were fried to perfection. The creamy dressing coating the top of the prawns was a delight. The sweet and sour balance combined with the crispy exterior of the prawn, and the perfectly cooked flesh was a delight. I ate one, then two, then three and I honestly could not stop. If I wasn’t wary of being too full for my main course I would have ordered another and another and another and so on. For someone who is always on the fence about eating fish items, especially prawns, this dish was a revelation. Even if I didn’t go back for anything else, I would probably pop in for this as a snack. The dish is large enough to satiate the appetite as a starter.
After a comfortable gap, the Mongolian beef and Kung Pao Chicken arrived with a side dish of Stir Fried Rice. I did attempt to pick up the beef strips with the Chop Sticks kindly provided, but ended up stabbing the beef and dropping it promptly into my plate. Deciding that practising with chopsticks in public was not the greatest idea, I resigned myself to using a fork. The beef was quite tender and tasty, with a sweet yet spicy coating sticking to each piece. The beef strips were slightly caught on the edges, making it less tender then it should have been. Had the beef been cooked to perfection, this again would have been another winning dish.
The Kung Pao Chicken on the other hand, was cooked to perfection. The little soft fried crispy chicken cubes, lightly coated in sauce melted in my mouth. The peanuts added fantastic texture to the dish and the spicing was perfect. The dish managed to stay crispy, even after the addition of the sauce (normally it turns into one soggy mess).
The stir fried rice was something I ordered to wash down the beef with. A side dish for me, is normally just that. However, this little gem was probably the star of the show when it came to the main course. Not being huge rice eater, I took a chance on the rice because I really didn’t feel like eating noodles in public. But I am so glad I did. The rice was fluffy and tender, and flavoured to perfection. It was the kind of rice you could probably eat forever, and not get sick of it. The crunch of the vegetables and balance of soy sauce made this dish flawless. Even when I was feeling full, I made sure I polished off the entire bowl of rice because it was just too good to waste.
The Pomegranate Cosmo came in a small cocktail glass, with a small amount of liquid inside. Now being used the pomp and glamour of the Mocktails served in other establishments, I was disappointed at seeing this mocktail. This is where appearances were the most deceiving because this Mocktail absolutely blew my mind. The sweet and sour homemade grenadine syrup was balanced well and just once sip of this, refreshed my palette for the next bite. This Mocktail was lovely and cool and luckily did not have the 75% ice cube ratio, which usually dilutes the Mocktail. Take note restaurants, this is how a Mocktail should be. There is no point hiding the same amount of liquid in a large oversized glass only to dilute it with a large chunk of crushed ice cubes.
Overall, it is probably clear from my review, that both the food and the staff, were excellent. The pricing of the food was roughly £30 for one starter and main dish, which is priced firmly in the mid-range category of halal food places in London (more drinks and a dessert would easily take this to £50 a head). The establishment deserves a solid 7.5/10. My only slight criticism would be the presentation of the food could possibly do with some work. But as presentation doesn’t bother me too much, I would definitely recommend to you, to try this place at least once, preferably when it is quiet so you can get the service and food you deserve!
Have you been here? What did you think? Feel free to comment below.