As you may or may not know, I am a quarter Chinese. It has essentially no cultural impact on my life, except that my mother and I like to get offended when they make microwaves with the buttons which simply say “Chinese” on them as a reheat option (“Chinese” what? Food? People? New Year?). But no matter how white I actually appear, I love Chinese food (or at least, having not yet been to China, the British/US approximation thereof).
To address this craving, we set off to Ni Hao, very close to Gran Vía, and selected due to its positive Tripadvisor reviews (which, as you know, I usually ignore and tend to focus on the one- and two-starrers).We stopped for fortification at a really good wine bar called Stop Madrid. It was apparently started in 1929, and is tucked down Calle Hortaleza, just off Gran Vía. It’s cosy and wooden, and they have a gagillion different wines by the glass and all kinds of meats and cheeses and stuff; if you think that place he meets Ernest Hemmingway in Midnight in Paris then it’s somewhere along those lines.
But lo – even all the wine and pretending to be the Scott-Fitzgeralds wasn’t going to stop us from reaching the promised Chinese food. On arrival, the enthusiastic waitress motored us to a table, presented us with a bowl of prawn crackers, and we ordered shortly afterwards. It’s definitely not a glamorous place: the decor is studenty, there are a lot of canteen-style tables, and to get to the bathrooms you go past a bunch of washing machines (me: “have you seen where the toilets are?” Ruairidh: “take a left at the Chinese laundromat”). But the waitress was very friendly and the twinkling Christmas lights brought it all together a bit more (perhaps, like I had done, they went Christmas decoration shopping at Wu’s Bazaar…).
We ordered ribs to share to start with, and then I picked the ‘Thai style caramelised beef’, with some rice they had put peppers, sauce, and some bonus prawns into. Ruairidh ordered Szechuan-style chicken, and we shared a bottle of red wine to accompany it all.
The ribs were so-so; I thought them a bit too small and boney. However, the beef was fab. It was really tasty, and lacked the stodgyness a Chinese take-away equivalent can leave you with. The rice-with-all-the-things was really good as well.
The menu was super extensive and you could go back and have very different meals each time. According to reviews online, they apparently do a booting hot pot, a thing I’ve never tried but am keen to. It also looked like there were a lot of vegetarian options as well. “They say” that the best indication of a Chinese restaurant is if a lot of Asian people eat there, and there were for sure; I had to try and use my chopsticks properly so as not to let the team down.
After we had finished the meal they gave us a bunch of mandarins, a gesture which was a lot nicer than the usual off-brand After Eights or dodgy toffees. We sat for a good while, finishing the wine, and enjoying the comings and goings of the Sunday night crowd. The bill was very reasonable and we probably could have sat there until closing time if we’d wanted, which I like in a restaurant.
The true highlight, however, came in the form of the very nice waitress complimenting me on my Game of Braids; as you can see below, it was a high point in
the evening my life:
Address: Calle Silva, 20 (Metro: Gran Vía or Callao)