I really hope it isn’t raining when you read this. At the time of writing, roads are melting, foreheads pouring with sweat and tempers fraying. We’ve done nothing but moan about the lack of sun for two years, but now the heat is on and we’re moaning about that. As I love the sunshine, my only real complaint is that the heat does affect the palate and appetite. Temperatures close to 30c don’t encourage our usual food choices or portion sizes.
So it was on a boiling hot day that I headed down to the canalside at the back of the Mailbox for a “working lunch”. My companion was Lyle from the Town Hall and Symphony Hall (THSH) who stepped, in last minute for an unavailable Lady C. As I arrived the hordes were out in force at the Mailbox, milling around the bars and eateries, attempting to stay in the sun and not return to their sweltering offices.
The Oriental is a fusion affair offering Chinese, Malaysian and Japanese food at a friendly price. It’s not exactly fine dining, but it’s a nice place to natter, drink, eat something a little strange and “be” at the Mailbox. Everything arrives quickly enough, but not so fast that it make you worried. We sat down on sloping seats leading to a high table.
As it was a hot day, we opted for salad starters. Mine was a Japanese Caesar salad, which had lightly spiced chicken, no croutons, little batons of carrot and leaves in a creamy sauce. It wasn’t really a Caesar salad at all, so I think it’s a mistake to call it one. But the chicken was good and the leaves were fresh and crunchy – a perfectly good starter and just right for a hot day. Lyle meanwhile went for a Laab Gai, which is minced chicken, spring onion, chilli, thai parsley, shallots and lime juice served on large iceberg lettuce leaves. If that’s sounds a little strange, it did look it. Lyle said he thought the dish was “intriguing”, although I feel he was trying to be diplomatic. Also, he couldn’t taste any lime. So, after an unusual start, we moved onto the mains.
For mains, we hit the lunchtime specials part of the menu, which are all £7.50 a throw. My choice was a Teriyaki salmon steak which was good and juicy, but perhaps could have done with a little more seasoning. Lyle got stuck into some black tiger prawns with asparagus tips and garlic, which he enjoyed. These are the sort of dishes you expect to have at a south east Asian restaurant and good stuff. We both finished with clean plates and this was more like the food we came for.
It was a hot day for desserts, but we fancied staying a bit longer. I tried the mango cheesecake which had good cream and biscuit. However, the fruit contained a sharp and slightly unpleasant aftertaste. Lyle opted for Marcafe coffee amaretto, which he really liked and scoffed every bit. So he won hands down on desserts, although I won at starters and I think mains were a tie.
I am not going to say this was the best lunch I’ve ever had, because it plainly wasn’t. I am guessing the restaurant doesn’t expect many customers at lunchtime and there were very few when we were there. However, the service was very good and attentive and the restaurant is clearly well-looked after and clean. There’s a large and well-stocked bar and I imagine a group at night could well have a good time here.
We were choosing from the lunch time menu and looking at the A La Carte I am guessing it’s probably a lot better. Most people I know who have been here have said they enjoyed more than I did, so even though this is a review, I shall reserve some judgement. I might well go back to The Oriental, but probably not for lunch and not on such a super hot day. I am guessing the weather will soon afford me the chance to do that.