From the best value to the longest dim sum menu, Christopher Heasman picks the top spots
Here are some fun facts for you: thanks to Liverpool’s expansive maritime and trade history, our city is home to Europe’s oldest Chinese immigrant community. The first settlers arrived in the middle of the nineteenth century and established a wide array of trade links between England’s north-west, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Appropriately enough, our Chinatown is also the oldest on the continent - and its arch is the largest to exist outside of China.
So naturally, we’ve got the food to match. Liverpool’s Chinese restaurants are as varied as they are numerous and - whether you’re after value, atmosphere, authenticity, great food or even just a decent takeaway - there’s always bound to be something for you. Just in case you’re having trouble choosing, however, we’ve gathered together the cream of the crop - and pinpointed just what makes them so great.
Best Value: Big Bowl Noodle Bar
54 Berry St, Liverpool Chinatown, L1 4JQ
You’ll find Big Bowl Noodle Bar on Berry Street, just over the road from the Bombed Out Church. It’s not exactly lavish inside and if it’s atmosphere you want then you’re way out, but Big Bowl does one thing better than anywhere else: value for money.
Their menu is cheap as all hell (don’t expect to be paying any more than five or six quid for a dish) and the portions are nothing less than gargantuan. Take that name as a hint, too, and go for a bowl of noodle soup; anything from chicken to beef to pork chop to duck will do just fine, though the restaurant does also offer a few more out-there options – above all else, though, size is what matters here.
Recommended dish: Pork chop noodle soup
Best Atmosphere: Chung Ku
Columbus Quay, Riverside Drive, L3 4DB
You can’t miss Chung Ku – it’s the massive building down on the edge of Toxteth that looks like it was built out of a Chinese junk ship. Inside, the dining area is spread out over a crescent-shaped room which looks out over the banks of the Mersey.
It’s warm, pleasant and unmistakably Chinese, and just about manages to skirt that line between relaxed and overtly fancy. As far as atmosphere goes, Chung Ku is top dog by quite some way. Food-wise, you’re not looking at anything particularly good value for money, but the quality of the grub on offer – especially their seafood – is more than worth the price. And did we mention that view?
Recommended dish: Stuffed “three treasures” seafood in black bean sauce
Most Authentic: Yuet Ben
1 Upper Duke Street, L1 9DU
Yuet Ben was first opened in 1968 by Yuh Ho Yau, an immigrant from Yantai in East China's Shandong province. Before arriving in Liverpool, he had worked in kitchens in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York. Today, the restaurant is run by his daughter, Theresa, and her husband.
The golden rule of all world food is this: the closer you get to the source, the better the food will be. Yuet Ben – a family restaurant began by a Chinese immigrant which specialises in the style of cuisine (Northern Chinese) he grew up with – is as close to China as you’re going to get without buying a plane ticket. That region’s culinary tradition counts rich, bold flavours and meat-based recipes among its best dishes, so naturally you’re better off erring towards Yuet Ben’s pork, beef, lamb and poultry dishes. Either way, take it from us: this is the real thing.
Recommended dish: Beef, bamboo shoots and Chinese mushrooms
Best Buffet: Buffet Club
23-25 Prescot St, Liverpool L7 8UE
Let’s not kid ourselves, here. Nobody goes to a Chinese buffet expecting haute cuisine. If you’re walking into a place like that, you’re doing it because you want as much food as a human can possibly consume in an hour for as little money as possible. And you want that food to be, at the very least, passable. That’s it.
Enter Buffet Club. They offer a range of starters, mains and desserts for only £7.95 during lunch hours and £9.95 in the evening. That range isn’t as extensive as some buffets, but you can expect to find basically ever classic Chinese dish here, including foo yung, pork in black pepper sauce and sweet and sour chicken. Buffet Club also counts a few dishes on its menu with are a little fancier than your regular Chinese buffets, such as aromatic duck and mushrooms in garlic sauce.
Recommended dish: Fresh-roasted Char Sui
Best Dim Sum: Mei Mei
9-13 Berry St, Liverpool L1 9DF
You can usually mark the authenticity and quality of a Chinese restaurant by the range of dim sum they have on offer. Mei Mei, on Berry Street, self-identifies as a dim sum restaurant - and they have an entire dim sum menu that would put most other places to shame.
Some of the many, many dim sum dishes on offer include prawn and pork dumplings, whelks in satay sauce, cheong fun (rice rolls with a variety of fillings), chicken feet, bean curd wraps and deep-fried cuttlefish. Just make sure you actually ask for the menu they give to Asian visitors, and don’t be afraid to get a little weird.
Recommended dish: Go for the dim sum set menu
Best Overall Food: Lady Jade
19 St Oswalds Street, Old Swan, L13 5SA.
If the one thing you’re really after is proper quality Chinese cuisine, then we’ve got to give it to Lady Jade. Specialising in Peking and Cantonese recipes, their menu might look like the one you’d find in literally every other Chinese on the planet – you’ve got your spring rolls, your stir-fried meats and vegetables, your duck and seafood and things like that. Nothing too out of the ordinary, right?
The difference here is that the manner of execution at Lady Jade is utterly flawless. Bar none, every dish is fresh, homemade and superbly prepared; don’t expect to find any MSG travesties or greasy slop, here. This really is as good as it gets.
Recommended dish: Cantonese-style deep fried sweet and sour pork