Norwich: Hong Kong Fusion

Sarah BrealeyNorwich's oldest Chinese restaurant has just undergone a make-over. The good times have returned to Prince of Wales Road's Hong Kong Fusion, says SARAH BREALEY.Sarah Brealey

Norwich's oldest Chinese restaurant has just undergone a make-over. The good times have returned to Prince of Wales Road's Hong Kong Fusion, says SARAH BREALEY.

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Hong Kong restaurant is one of the oldest fixtures on Norwich's restaurant scene. It has recently become Hong Kong Fusion, which is not so much a change of management as a return to the original management. After four years while it was leased out to someone else, it has returned to the owners who set it up in the 1970s.

It is has had a revamp and is looking very good now, decorated in red and wood panelling with touches of grey. The bamboo ceiling reminds you that you are in a Chinese, and there are photos of what I took to be Hong Kong cityscapes.

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The big draw here is the choice and flexibility of the menu. You can have a set banquet, or you can invent your own dish.

The chefs specialise in Cantonese food, but other regions of China are represented too. As well as the old favourites like chow mein and chilli salt squid you can have any kind of meat, seafood or vegetable filling with any kind of sauce - ginger and spring onion; black bean; bamboo shoot and water chestnut; or many more. It might not all be totally authentic but it does mean there are hundreds of possible combinations so you can have what you really want.

The expansive menu also has a whole section of dim sum, little dishes served in bamboo baskets which are usually eaten with tea as the kind of Chinese equivalent of mezze. But there is nothing to stop you having a dim sum or two as a starter if you want.

There are other starters like spring rolls, spare ribs and king prawn toasts; small bowls of soups and broths; and large bowls of soup with noodles. There are house specials such as Cantonese roast duck, crispy belly of pork and Mongolian lamb stew.

There are some traditional Chinese dishes, perhaps not for the faint-hearted, such as ducks' tongues and chicken claws and frogs' legs. Then there is crispy duck with pancakes, usually shared eaten as a kind of middle course between a starter and a main. It is quite an effort to choose.

The other half had won ton soup, which had four fat won tons floating in a clear and fragrant broth. I had sweet lotus seed buns, mostly because I had never had them before. I am still not entirely sure whether is extremely odd to have these as a starter. In many ways they were more akin to a dessert, mostly because they were sweet, but then the ethos at Hong Kong is pretty much to have what you want, in the way that you want it. The buns had been steamed and were very light, white dough, with a sweet, slightly caramelly lotus seed paste inside. A kind of Chinese version of a doughnut, but probably nicer.

Mixed meat chow mein was a good size and unexpectedly generous with the meat - jumbo prawns, little prawns, beef, pork and chicken. My vegetables in cashew nut sauce, from the mix and match section, featured mushrooms, baby corn, bamboo shoots, and celery - in a subtle and light sauce with plenty of nuts.

We were perusing the wine list when we spotted sake. Now sake is famously Japanese, whereas we were in a Chinese restaurant, but hey, they call it Fusion, and we had never had sake before. It confounded my expectations by not being as pricey as I thought, or as strong as I imagined - 14.6pc, so slightly stronger than wine, but not as strong as sherry or port. You can have it cold or warm, but apparently warm is traditional, as it brings out the sweet flavours. So we had it warm, and you get a hot water bath to keep it in. It was nicer than you might think, tasting quite alcoholic but with a subtle, grainy taste. The other half described it as 'like a weaker vodka', which is nicer than it sounds.

The clientele is a mixture of Chinese and English, and both groups seems pretty happy. Hong Kong restaurant may be an old-timer but it has had a new lease of life.

t Hong Kong Fusion, 22 Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, 01603 626391,

t Prices: Starters �3, main dishes �6-9, whole roast duck �24, �12 for house wine, �8 for a half-bottle of sake.

t Wheelchair access: Yes, including the toilet.

t Vegetarian options: Plenty


Food: ****

Service: ****

Atmosphere: ****

Family: ***