Vicky Andrews suggests that you DO believe the hype
I never imagined that a visit to a Chinese on Smithdown Road would blossom into anything more than a casual date, but since visiting Maggie Fu’s I can’t stop thinking about her salt and pepper ribs and wondering if it’s okay to pop down the ASDA for a pint of milk but *accidentally* come home with a takeaway banquet instead.
I realised that I wasn’t just enjoying the food here, I was loving it
The Asian street food joint appeared on the opposite corner to Tribeca last year and fast became the name on everyone’s lips. Not a week went by without one of my friends raving about the place, wide-eyed with tales of queuing outside the door for spicy chicken wings that were beyond the vocabulary of a mere mortal. The whole of Liverpool had gone prawn crackers and Maggie Fu’s had managed to generate a following that PR companies can only dream about.
All the warning signs indicated that this restaurant wasn’t really my thing. Features that I appreciate in a dining experience include online booking and ample nearby parking; an extensive wine list; being waited on hand and foot; plenty of elbow room and a bit of time to relax in between courses. Maggie Fu is not concerned with any of these trivialities because the important stuff here is the food. And it’s bloody delicious.
It’s the kind of place where you can drop in on your own to slurp on a comforting ramen bowl, grab a big gang of mates and plough through a melee of starters, or get cosy over a family meal with the kids. It’s small inside with seating for around forty five people in a mix of booths, tables and window benches. Once you’ve found a spot and decided what you want, order your food and drinks at the bar, and they’ll arrive within minutes. Then you eat until you’re stuffed full of good soul food and everything is right with the world. Job done.
Booking isn’t an option, so at peak times you will see hungry crowds waiting outside, which seems to speed up the meal duration and table rotation. No dawdling here. Pretty clever actually, from a profit point of view. I get the feeling that you need to pick your timing very wisely depending on how long you’re willing to wait and what sort of atmosphere you’re looking for.
One hour after the doors had been opened for the evening sitting, there was already an air of fast-moving and slightly spontaneous chaos as orders were keyed in and the card machine sang to an endless rotation of bowls flying across the room at a dizzying speed. Fortunately the table runners maintained a sense of calm at all times and were consistently patient, polite and friendly, even when we decided to move from a window bench onto a bigger table that was both a people and bird-watching paradise.
Chickens were spit roasted and then shredded in front of us in the open kitchen (none of those squishy, plumped up breasts here thank you) and the quality of all of the meat was really impressive. The three meat ramen noodle bowl (£10.30) was manna from heaven, a generous serving of sliced roast chicken, roast duck and char sui pork in a satisfying spicy broth with Chinese spring greens that retained their crunch and a perfectly yolky boiled egg on top. From the roasted section of the menu came slices of duck breast served on a bed of steamed rice with more of those fresh spring greens. It was an uncomplicated dish in itself but unfathomably delicious (£9.50).
The appetisers had arrived only a short time before the mains, but I was more than happy to dip in and out of steamed sui mai with sriracha hot sauce (£4.50) and those infamous salt and pepper ribs (£6.50) which were lucky enough to come home with me that night for round two a couple of hours later.
With every mouthful, my preconceptions of this place melted away and I realised that I wasn’t just enjoying the food here, I was loving it. It felt like a flying visit at around 40 minutes and a very pocket friendly £36 for two people with a Tiger beer (£3.30) and Diet Coke (£2.20).
But I’ll be back again soon to try the rest of the menu, which also includes gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options. Maggie, don’t go changing. I love you just the way you are.
Maggie Fu, 346 Smithdown Road, Liverpool, L15 5AN
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Sui mai 7, salt and pepper ribs 9, roast duck with steamed rice 8, three meat ramen broth 8
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