A number of Chinese restaurants and cafés that serve authentic Chinese food have popped up in Portsmouth over the last few years. Most restaurants will now have a separate Chinese menu in addition to the standard menu. Golden Bowl is a café / takeaway towards the northern end of Fawcett Road that has a menu of Hong Kong Cantonese food alongside more Westernised fare. This place is small (around 25 covers) and no frills and is reminiscent of a café in Hong Kong – there is a ceiling fan and behind the counter, you’ll see a curtain that cordons off the kitchen and a TV playing Chinese channels.
The Chinese menu is translated into English and features a good range of meat and seafood options. There is less for vegetarians but the chef may be able to adapt some of the menu items. You’ll see popular Cantonese dishes such as roast duck, soup noodles topped with a fried egg and poached chicken with ginger and spring onion oil dip. You’ll also see some dishes and drinks that could be from a Hong Kong cha chaang teng such as king prawns in cheese sauce and Hong Kong style French toast. To drink, you can order favourites such as honey lemon and hot Coke with ginger.
We have tried several items from the Chinese menu and have never been disappointed. With each dish, you get steamed or egg fried rice (served in a golden yellow bowl) and a drink. All this for a princely sum of £7.50 – £8.50 per dish at the time of writing. Most of the dishes cost £7.50, while some some of the specials such as the steamed whole fish will cost more. The portion sizes are generous – if you can’t finish your food, you can ask for a container to take home the leftovers.
One of my favourite dishes is pipa tofu, named after the pipa, a Chinese lute. This dish usually consists of lightly fried tofu and minced prawn balls (moulded into a pipa shape), served with a light sauce. Many versions will include pork or other meat. However, Golden Bowl cooked me a version with no meat – they served me a mixture of prawn and vegetarian pipa tofu (the veggie version had water chestnuts), topped with sliced shiitake mushroom and green pepper in a garlicky brown sauce! Hats off to the Golden Bowl for catering to me – much appreciated!
Another favourite is stuffed three treasures: this is a dish of fried aubergine, green pepper and tofu stuffed with minced prawn paste and coated in black bean sauce. This is a very tasty combination of flavours and is a great choice for vegequarians (although best to check first as some restaurants will include pork in the prawn paste). Golden Bowl served a generous portion of the three treasures – the sauce was thick and glossy with the distinctive salty and sweet flavour of crushed black beans and there was a good treasure to prawn paste ratio. The dish may be a little oily for some as the aubergine, pepper and tofu were deep fried before being cooked in the sauce.
We’ve also ordered a couple of the hotpots. At some Chinese restaurants (including a few in Portsmouth), you may see a group of diners seated around a large bowl of steaming broth and cooking noodles and slithers of meat and vegetables in the broth. This is one type of hotpot. The other type is more like a stew and this is what’s on offer at Golden Bowl. We’ve ordered the braised beef and seafood and tofu hotpots. The braised beef version had large chunks of melt in the mouth beef (I was told). The seafood and tofu hotpot had a mixture of prawns, squid and tofu puffs and vegetables, including Chinese black fungus. I found this to be a very clean tasting dish and was a good balance against the heavier three treasures.
I also really like Chinese prawn cake – minced prawn shaped into patties and then pan fried. Prawn cake is usually served with a generous amount of Chinese greens and I think it’s a better value choice than an order of just greens 😉 We’ve also ordered beef tendon and brisket stew – this is a very popular Cantonese dish that champions cheap cuts of meat and offal and is often served with rice or noodles. I tried this dish many years ago in my pre-vegequarian days – if you’re a fan of beef stew and are not too squeamish about eating offal, then I think you’ll like this! Golden Bowl’s version, I was told, was very tasty.
Golden Bowl is understandably very popular with Chinese students. However, it is equally popular as a traditional British Chinese takeaway and café. We have only ordered from the Chinese menu but, going by the constant stream of takeaway customers and diners happily tucking into food from the standard menu (portion sizes are just as big), I think there is something for everyone.
71 Fawcett Road
Hampshire. PO4 0DB
Tel: +44 (0)23 9242 0124
Opening hours: Monday 11.00 – 17.00
Tuesday – Sunday 11.00 – 23.00
Typical cost per person (main meal and soft drink): Up to £8.50 for the Chinese menu, more for specials