Gigi Gao’s Favorite Authentic Chinese, 23 Anchor Court, Victoria Quay, Maritime Quarter, Swansea SA1 3XA. Starting from £4.98-£8.98, large dishes £6.98-£13.98, wines from £19.98
Gigi Sing is her very own special creation, and what a wonderful creation she is. She serves us in a full-length, silver, sequined fitted dress and a gold tassel veil. It becomes clear, when it comes to home wine, it is a fashion, not a cultural choice; She is depicted on the label of a bespoke wine bottle, unveiled, raising a glass. Another waiter is in a rainbow sequined dress, and a third has a black sequined dress with a dashing opera cape. Well, they pair these outfits with savvy looking trainers. The most wonderful thing about this dress up is that it suits the décor. This is the best kind of dry fruits.
The floor and several walls have been painted mandarin orange, with bits decorated with expanded images from willow patterns, among many other things. The ceiling is tied with fairy lights and wide bolts of red, diaphanous fabric. There is a giant, soft panda in one corner and a small deer in the other. The stuffed toy animal is completely startled. I can quite see why. For no apparent reason, a silver bunting reading “Happy 50th Birthday” hangs on our side of the dining room. oh well It is bound to be someone’s 50th at some point. Tablecloths, under thick, transparent protectors on which your bare hands can later stick, are decorated with Chinese tales and legends and wine is served low in glasses with multicolored swirls and metal stems. Outside, in front of the marina, under a wide sprawling tree are bright-red tables hung with numerous lanterns. The laminated menu is an equally gorgeous riot of images and typefaces.
If the food served in Gigi Gao’s Favorite Authentic Chinese wasn’t much, but it depends on everything, all this spectacle and excitement would just be disturbing. Apart from the two deep-fried seafood dishes that were initially allowed to be walled in a deep-fat fryer for too long, the largely Sichuan-accented cuisine here is a grand old wallop of flavor and intention and that’s it. All round bloody good things.
Gigi arrived in Swansea about 20 years ago to study law at university and was apparently struck by the lack of good Chinese restaurants. So, in 2014, he opened it at a location further up the city and lent his goofy look to Design Run Riot, before moving it here in 2019. By necessity, the long menu makes some of the standard Anglo-Chinese crowd enjoyable, especially among starters. Yes, you can have crispy duck and spring rolls, prawn toast and dumplings. There is one list of black bean recipes and the other is sweet and sour.
Don’t. Instead order a plate of the refreshingly tangy Kale Fungus Salad or another of grated cucumber with julienned carrots. The menu is rich in these non-meat options, the most thrilling of which is the grilled potato dish. They arrive in a small cauldron suspended within an ornate brass frame, below which is a guttering candle. The potato discs are both crunchy and soft at the same time and appear to have been blanched, then deep fried, then spiced and turned into a mess of chili and black beans, making them crusty. The joy of the flavors could create huge hits. They are so good, so compelling, we order the second part. To be fair there were eight of us at the table. To be even more clear, it only costs £8.98, which I consider to be a strange, vaguely arbitrary price, the weirdness of which is perfectly fitting for the location.
I scan menu. Almost everything ends up in 98, probably because it’s 1p less than 99 and the full round-up is £1 to 2p less. Oh yes, I can do all the math. Of course, the important thing is the numbers before the 98s. Most often it is 6s, 7s and 8s, with a handful of seafood reaching heights of 12 and 13. Or to put it another way, we sabotaged through menus as toddlers let loose on no-limits sweetie pick’n’mix, didn’t skimp on alcohol and still linger at less than £40 per head have arrived. You can eat very little here and have a great time.
Vegetarian options include the rarely seen dish of sliced potatoes, served with a little bite. I am used to being cold. It is best served hot, though it works well with the overpowering flavor of grated potatoes. We have long-cooked eggplant in the deepest and darkest sauce we can, and a bright meadow of garlic spinach to freshen everything up. There’s a List of “Lazy” Recipes, Because Customers Keep Missing and Misreading the Chinese Word lazy, for chili. Boasting a proud, firm meatiness, lazy bean curd made from tofu skin, comes in a more pungent sauce with peanuts and dried chilies that are pulled to the side.
There is something called barrel beef, which is, as the name suggests, a barrel-shaped vessel lined with foil and filled with the kind of broth that you would enjoy on a cold night or even That can get lost in the hot, just thicker with ribbons. Cooked beef and fresh green herbs, fresh and dried chilies. We order chicken wings at Coke and conclude from the eye-popping, tooth-tasting sweetness of the thick sauce that it was actually made with lots of Coke. Extra ribs in the glossy five-spice sauce with which you can varnish a boat deck, an old Cantonese throwback is another of the kind of Anglo-Chinese restaurants I went to and loved as a kid. It’s like going to a party full of interesting people you don’t know, and meeting a dear old friend in the middle.
Among our numbers was the great Jeremy Pang, a panelist on the world-renowned BBC Radio 4 show kitchen cabinet and hosted his own great ITV show on Asian Cookery. He was able to guide us through the menu, but you really don’t need a pang on your side. Just order anything that’s even a little unfamiliar. It’s fair to say that Gigi made Jeremy shine, but in truth I think it’s just that we were a big table of enthusiastic eaters ready to serve her. And he gave a lot. To embellish the old line about Sinatra, it was Gigi Gao’s world of candy-colored, garlands, ribbons, sequins, and tassels; We were just living in it. Is it really authentic? I do not care. What matters is that it is good.
Yorkshire-based TruFoods, which makes restaurant-quality stocks and sauces – I swear by their veal juices and so have many top-flight kitchens – has finally opened an online shop. Products include everything from basic stock to prepared gravy to Steak Diane Sauce, Kombu Dashi, and Thai Broth. The minimum order is eight pouches and must be placed by noon every Monday for delivery to most of the UK mainland the following Thursday. order here.
Steakhouse group Hawksmoor is once again staging its annual charity fundraiser to help Action Against Hunger. Dinner takes place on Saturday 10 September at the Hawksmoor Guildhall and tickets cost £200 for a multi-course feast cooked by a star line of Florence Knight of the Bratt’s Tomos Parry and Sessions Art Club, with Hawksmoor’s Matt Brown. The night will be hosted by Fantastic Me. Ticket here.
A mark of how hard it is to find restaurant workers these days: Northcote Manor in Lancashire and the company behind big London restaurants like JKS, Gymkhana, Sabor, Bao’s and Lyle have launched paid apprenticeship schemes. JKS Apprenticeship Academy will offer programs for two sets of 11 candidates both at the back and front of the house and will last for 16 months with jobs offered to successful apprentices at the end. The Northcote scheme is looking for five apprentices.