166 Trafalgar Road, SE10
Another one of those lovely, homely restaurants that I’ve been meaning to write about for absolutely ages and kept forgetting to do.
Mr Chung looks ever-so-slightly out of place in the tatty parade of shops along Trafalgar Road. It’s been there for ever, so the sign does look a little faded (though not bad at all) but the lovely stone Dogs of Fo outside and the little window boxes which, in spring especially, bring a little floral happiness to a concrete-ridden, traffic-clogged highway, stay fresh and never seem to get vandalised (ooh – maybe I’m tempting fate here… nah – I don’t think the kind of meatheads who do that kind of thing read this kind of thing…)
Inside, the fresh pale green walls and simple, traditional pictures give a peaceful feel rather than the often dizzying ‘Oriental’ clutter you get in many Chinese restaurants. The menu, too, is simple and includes the classic dishes, but also a few unusual ideas and others that you think are unusual because they’re actually executed well (the steamed scallops are probably the best things on the menu, IMHO.) The meat dishes are succulent and well-flavoured, with interesting dips and dressings.
Vegetarian choices in Chinese restaurants often tend to be plates of boring, slimy vegetables covered in mono sodium glutamate goo which veggies have to miserably suck while everyone else tucks into the crispy duck. I don’t know whether Mr Chung actually uses MSG but it’s never hit me as a big ingredient even if he does. Whether meat, veg or seafood, the flavour of the ingredients themselves shine through.
Mr Chung himself is a erudite, elegant omnipresence benignly overseeing the operations in what looks like a clean, well-run kitchen – the chefs always seem to be smiling, which I usually tend to take as indicative of rather more than mere mirth.
I would never argue that Mr Chung is fine dining. But it does what it does very well indeed. And what it does is good-quality, well-presented food for an informal, local meal with friends. And for me, lovely though fine dining is, having such eateries (or even better, a selection of such eateries) is far more important on a day-to-day basis.