Chung Ying

China Quarter, 16-18 Wrottesley Street, Birmingham, B5 4RT, United Kingdom

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Chung Ying opened in 1981 and is the oldest restaurant in Birmingham’s Chinatown district. It has a large, cavernous dining room and an overspill room for walk-ins. Even on this soggy, cold February Tuesday night, the place was packed out. The room is carpeted and the large tables were well spaced, but it had quite a buzzy atmosphere. 

The menu was vast, and there were various set menus and even a completed gluten-free menu. Set menus ranged from £25 to £35 per person. By comparison, £26 will buy you just a plate of dim sum or a dish of barbecued pork at the Royal China Club in London. There were a couple of dozen wines with no vintages listed starting at £21.95, including Bollinger Special Cuvee NV champagne at £65 compared to its retail price of £54, and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc at £46.95 compared to its shop price of £18.  

We tried a couple of dim sum dishes. Fried prawns were nicely crisp on the outside with tender prawn filling (14/20). Har gau prawn dumplings had carefully cooked prawns and dumplings that were not the gossamer translucent variety that the very best places in Hong Kong manage but were still fine (14/20).

Hot and sour soup was packed with all sorts of ingredients including prawns, peas mushrooms and tofu and had quite a chilli kick, though for me it could have had just a little more vinegar (13/20). We had ordered a whole sea bass on the bone to share but some kitchen glitch meant that there was a long delay followed by a fillet of sea bass appearing. This was from quite a small fish and had limited flavour, though it was cooked well enough (13/20). Better were delicate Singapore noodles with a hint of curry powder flavouring and a few strips of pork (14/20). Gai lan with garlic was also good, the broccoli tender and having good flavour (14/20). Egg-fried rice was fine.

Service was efficient and quite friendly and the bill, with beer and a cocktail to drink, came to £44 each, which felt very reasonable when you are used to London pricing. Chung Ying is a Birmingham institution and rightly so based on this meal.

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