Back when Beard and I were dating, once a month we used to venture into Chinatown, London and try a different restaurant each time. Anyone who has been to Chinatown before will know the restaurants vary massively, from all you can eat buffets, to ducks hanging up in the window and then your uber posh restaurants.
It was a Friday, our first Chinatown date and we were still at that awkward stage of dating where you’re not sure if you’re exclusive and are awaiting the cringe-worthy childish moment when the guy says, “so, I’ve been kind of thinking, like, errrr, maybe you might want to, if you want, maybe, sort of like, be my girlfriend or something…?”
We were there. That was us.
We are seated in the restaurant and it’s pretty busy. Looking through the menu, feeling a bit awkward, not knowing if we were going for a set meal, choosing our own dishes or sharing and then there’s the awkward silence. Hence why I jumped up to pop to the loo.
When coming back, Beard informs me that he’s ordered us a few starters. They arrive and they look lovely! Seaweed (my favourite), chicken satay (yummy), vegetable spring rolls (nom nom nom). Straight away, because he knows me so well, he asks the waiter for some chilli sauce. Good boy. Top points. As I’m dipping away I can feel my tongue tingling. That chilli sauce must be really quite potent. Then I’m pretty sure my lips are starting to feel weird. Obviously, Beard can sense there’s something wrong, but I convince him I’m fine. That is until I start to spit everywhere when I talk. Oh my god! My tongue is swollen. So it turns out that the vegetable spring rolls aren’t vegetable, they’re prawn.
I’m allergic to prawn.
In a panic, as my face is starting to balloon, and my tongue is getting bigger and bigger we get a glass of ice water, and I basically sit there for an hour with my face in it until my Epi-pen kicks in. It was a great first date as I’m sure you can imagine and I think Beard really thought I looked stunning as my face blotched, I was dribbling and my mouth looked like a very wrong encounter with Botox. Either that or he felt sorry for me and hugely guilty that he attempted to kill me, and that’s why he asked me to be his girlfriend!
After this night, we successfully had many more dates in Chinatown, without the need for medical intervention and avoiding prawns at all costs. Naturally, we tried different restaurants; some good, some great and some hellish. That was until we found Plum Valley. The creme de la creme of Chinese delicacies. The God of Crispy Chilli Beef and what is now our favourite Chinese restaurant in the world ever, and the only Chinese we venture to when we have a Chinatown date night.
The decor in Plum Valley is dark and opulent. It’s the perfect place to catch up with friends, host an envious business lunch but equally is the ideal romantic spot. The kids even love it here, so it’s a great all-rounder. The tables are set out like little booths downstairs, so it’s quaint and private. To contrast, upstairs is slightly more open, with large round tables for larger get-togethers.
As you can expect the food is INCREDIBLE!!! My favourite is the Chilli Beef – it’s the perfect combination of crunch, punch and munch served in a lattice style crunchy birds nest. Beards favourite is the Mongolian Beef OR the Beef Fillet in Mandarin Sauce, and I must say, these are both to die for – the steak literally melts in your mouth, and once we’re finished with the meal, I could literally drink the sauce.
Josh’s favourites are Sweet & Sour Chicken with Pomegranates or the Chicken Satay – again, we also adore these dishes, so it’s a bit of a fight over who gets what and how much. Finn simply loves Crispy Aromatic Duck, and the duck portions here are HUGE – even a quarter serves the five of us as we just get extra pancakes. Austyn also loves Chinese and devours the Prawn Toast from Plum Valley – obviously, I stay well clear of him – but pop that and some Chicken Noodles with Beansprouts and Spring Onion in front of him and he’s one happy toddler.
The menu at Plum Valley is extensive, and from what we’ve tried, which is quite a lot of it, everything has been sublime. It’s utterly delicious; however, it’s no cheap meal. Most dishes are £10 (minimum) all the way up to Wagyu Beef at £39 or Whole Turbot Fish at £45, but you get what you pay for and more at this restaurant. The ingredients used are simply the best and the chefs world-class.
If you like Chinese, you’ll love this. I’ve never found better Chinese food than Plum Valley and believe me, I’ve been trying for years to find better, but no one beats this place.