Cha Cha Wan | $$$ | 3

Thai chicken

After a busy weekend and late Saturday night belting out Robbie Williams’ “Angels” in expat bars, we managed to rally a motley crew for lunch. We were inclined to avoid venturing too far from Sheung Wan, not least because of the strong winds and rain that had been threatening all day ahead of the impending typhoon.

A short walk towards the Mid-Levels was all that we needed to find an appropriately delicious smelling place. The wait wasn’t particularly long, and we were seated before we knew it. All but one of us keenly browsed the fresh juice section, the other braved a mojito.

The menu is diverse and unapologetic – it is a near certainty that when you eat with a large group of people at a spicy restaurant, there will be at least one person who says “I can’t handle spicy food.” This menu, rather than including in a footnote something along the lines of “Don’t worry mate – we’ll adapt our food to your taste” says something along the lines of “You don’t like spice? We can only do our best.” Thankfully, I love spice, and I secretly loved the fact they weren’t willing to undermine the authenticity of their food for that bloke/shiela in the corner of the room with a spice intolerance.

One final point to flag is that you will not find either a green curry or red curry per se – so if you’re uncomfortable taking a leap into the dark with precisely what you’ll get on your plate, perhaps best to avoid this restaurant.

I ordered the half chicken, marinated in oyster sauce and garlic. My friend ordered the crispy pork below.

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The portion size was generous and the smell was fantastic. In addition to the sweet sauce they provided with the chicken, I ordered a small plate of chopped fresh Bird’s Eye Chilli (very hot, not recommended for the faint of heart).

The oyster sauce marinade was in theory a great idea, but in realty proved slightly problematic. For my palate, it overpowered the dish with a saltiness that would have made the Great Salt Plains of Oklahoma proud. The chicken, while not not as succulent as I had expected, was not awful and the garlic was predictably delicious.

The meal wasn’t especially cheap, so for a group of 6 we had assumed we would be able to split the bill.

This was far from the first time we had reached the end of a pleasant meal, then encountered numerous obstacles to us paying in anything but cash (or more bizarrely, our Octopus (aka Oyster) card – but this still couldn’t be split). We had been getting the impression that splitting the bill at a restaurant was a cultural faux pas, something that people just didn’t do – perhaps you repaid intra-group debts by buying the next meal, meaning for a group of 12 you would need to dine 11 more times with the same group? At any rate, because they wouldn’t let us split, we had to do the following:

  1. Work out who actually had cash;
  2. Work out how much each person spent;
  3. Add the service charge to the amount in 2;
  4. Work out how much we should tip, apportion accordingly;
  5. For those without sufficient cash, find a cash point;
  6. Realise the nearest cash point was at least a 10 minute walk;
  7. Realise there was gale force wind and horizontal rain outside;
  8. Get completely soaked to withdraw money; and
  9. Pay the bill.

Perhaps the solution is just to walk around with an absurd amount of cash on you on a daily basis to deal with every contingency (or just have no friends so you’ll never dine in groups), but if you are from London, or frankly most other places, this is not something that comes naturally to you.

It is experiences like this that ruin otherwise pleasant meals. We didn’t need to get soaked, and we didn’t need to feel like we were being difficult. A decent meal marred by avoidable customer service issues.

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