Indochine

Address: 9 King Street
Prices: £9-£20 – 2 courses
Rating: ****

Yorkshire, oriental and tapas are not three words that go comfortably together. With the Yorkshire stereotype tending towards a mean old man with a whippet, a flat cap, and questionable dentistry, my first thought was of miniscule portions. I pictured a couple of beansprouts sprinkled onto a beer-mat sized plate from a great height, a few lonely prawns cuddling up to each other for warmth. Then, remembering the actuality of the huge, giant Yorkshire pudding I had stuffed down just the day before, I pictured an opposite horror. Huge enormous plates of noodles, dumped onto a plate that would need to be eaten with a fork and trowel a la BFG. In either case, it was with trepidation that I tripped down to Indochine in the rain.

Sandwiched down a side street just off from superclub The Gallery, the restaurant is hidden away and looks pretty snoreworthy from the outside. While it’s website shows pictures of some kind of space age, Futurama-esque mega bar, the reality is a modest, small, but pleasant restaurant. Didn’t much like the wallpaper, or the angry signs on the kitchen saying “Keep OUUUUT!”, but it certainly wasn’t bad. There wasn’t blood dripping from the walls or anything like that at least.

However even if there was a sanguine interior, I probably would have gone back because the food at Indochine was fantastic. The menu offers two sides, one a range of large noodle dishes and bento boxes, the other a range of little oriental “tapas” plates from Japan, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Korea, Singapore and Thailand.

Secretly, I think the restaurant owners want you to go for the little plates. They give the menu to you this side up. They nudge it as you look like you’re about to flip over. I have a sneaking suspicion that if you ordered the pad thai and nothing else, they’d make a stupid face, put on a high pitched voice and pretend to be you behind the kitchen doors. Or maybe not. It’s an open kitchen that you could see if you were upstairs. In any event, I reckon you’re marking yourself out as a bit of a boring Bertie to your date if you pick the dufus side…

To start there was crispy duck and pancakes. Pretty straightforward really, to be honest I don’t see how any restaurant could screw that up. The pancakes weren’t black. The duck wasn’t still alive. It was all good.

But then, the tapas. It was so amazing, it was like each mouthful was Billy Zane picking me up, kissing me passionately, telling me I was 20 times more attractive than Kelly Brook and then offering me a job as the Observer food critic, in addition to two tickets to Disneyland Florida.

Char sui pork and teriyaki salmon were both sticky and sweet without being sickly or drowned in a swamp of sauce. Gyoza (steamed pork dumplings) were piping hot and delicately spiced, but best of all was the tempura. Squid, king prawns and scallops were all perfectly cooked, in a crisp but incredibly light outer shell of batter. I wanted to keep eating forever. However, we were tipsy and full so we didn’t, which was very sad.

At £3.50-£4.00 per plate, Indochine isn’t exactly cheap. Four plates, a ¼ of a peking duck and half a bottle of wine each came to £22 each. However, I would go there tomorrow if they’d have me, which is saying something because I actually don’t have 22 more pounds, so I’d have to go into my overdraft to do so. I still totally would though. The staff are very nice, the wine doesn’t taste like feet, the wallpaper’s a bit iffy and the food is incredible. Don’t all go at once. I will kick you and then pretend it’s an accident to get a table.

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