Chi

Best Part: The Spring Rolls

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TO BE A SIXTH FORMER…

Before I start our review, I need to get something off my chest. When I was a sixth former, allowed to leave the school premises at lunchtime this would be a once a week trip to Garston McDonalds for a milk shake or the newsagents in Abbots Langley for a bag of crisps. What I do not remember is hoards of us hitting the local restaurants for their lunchtime deals. We were not poor, if anything Parmiterians were on the affluent side but nothing it would seem compared to the clientele of the Abbey boys school who frequently lunch like kings! Whenever Mr Midweek lunch and I visit an eatery on the south side of the city centre, 1 o clock heralds the entry of many sixth formers. I simply don’t understand it and what’s more I disapprove. These teenagers seem to have more money than we do. Do their parents know what they’re up to? I’ll come clean, I’m jealous!

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THE VIBE

Being rather unobservant I have only recently noticed stalwart Chi on Holywell Hill. This coincided with the realisation that we hadn’t yet reviewed a Chinese lunch time meal deal so in we went. The front of Chi is very large and black, perhaps this combined with the shadow cast on Holywell hill at this time of day explains why it had faded into the background until now. The restaurateur initially seemed a bit grumpy when we entered but he got on with his job efficiently enough. We got the impression that Chi wasn’t best suited to lunch.

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The inside of the restaurant is quite dark yet tasteful. It reminded me of the PIER shop; full of tasteful ethnic dark wood furniture and blue and white crockery. It was cosy and pleasant. It was also very empty. We ate our starters in peace. Then we heard the clock tower strike 1 and in they started to come – those rich sixth form boys. They were obviously regular clients because they were so familiar with the menu they could order before seeing it.  Excitement – this time there was a table of girls too! They didn’t seem remotely interested in the boys and the vice versa. Let’s hope they were talking about their history coursework or something. I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention to them at all. I was talking to my husband about this review.

 

THE FOOD

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The spring rolls and accompanying chilli sauce were light, crisp and promptly delivered. Mr Midweek lunch’s soup was excellently gloopy, almost a soup/jelly hybrid. The chicken came in nice big chunks and the whole thing was delightfully warming on a chilly spring day.

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I was excited about getting Granny’s “Ma Po” Tofu because I no longer it at home due to it ending up wet and flabby. Unfortunately readers, it was wet and flabby here too. It was served in what I can only call gravy. The rice was quite nice though.

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My husband had the Char Siu Pork and was very impressed. It was salty and sticky, and served with great piles of very nice fried rice. The sauce was great too, and he felt down with the kids when he observed that most of the younger patrons had ordered the same dish. The beer was refreshing, and it’s always pleasurable to say ‘Tsing Tao’. It just rolls off the tongue somehow.

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TO CONCLUDE

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I think Chi would be a fun place to come for dinner when it no doubt it is lively and full of lovely smells and happy diners. I wasn’t very impressed with my main course but the service was prompt, I liked the decor, my husband’s company and observing the clientele. The set menu, at £7.95 for two pretty substantial courses plus prawn crackers, was quite the steal as well. Therefore can I report and overall positive dining experience. Even if I didn’t, I know they would be kept in business by local school children. (I wonder how much pocket money they get?)

7.2/10

http://chi-uk.com/

Hatch

Best Part: The Walls containing the Restaurant

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So….. it wasn’t long ago (here in fact) that I was talking about our natural prejudice towards dining establishments that take over from previous dining establishments that we liked which notwithstanding we are able to overcome as we are big-hearted and like to give plucky up-and-comers a chance. I expressed concern about whoever was going to take over Panko‘s lease as we really dug Panko and were pretty bummed out when it closed. Well, here we are at Hatch, and it’s pretty much like a less Japanese, more Waffley version of Panko. The décor is the same, the waiting staff look very familiar, I’m pretty sure they’re owned by the same people. So well done, Hatch. You dodged a bullet there.

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Hatch, as I’m sure you’re aware, is another branch of Hatch, the popular hatch that gives you toasted sandwiches and stuff. They tried something like this before with Canteen, which was more sandwichey and then became non-Hatch affiliated. This time they’ve gone down a different path, one clearly stated on their window. Waffles! Burgers! Brunch! All fine and solid foodstuff, and no Japanese breadcrumbs in sight.

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There are still sandwiches, and mighty enticing ones. Between them and the burgers I had a hard time choosing so instead I went for bacon and waffles. It was the only savoury option on the waffle menu, although it did come with maple syrup. Is bacon inherently savoury? It is quite salty, but then so is salted caramel. Maybe bacon is able to adapt to it’s surroundings like a chameleon. Imagine if they made chameleon bacon. I wonder what that would taste like? Probably chicken bacon. Anyway, It was a beaut of a waffle, the bacon had that very thick almost solid crispiness that just drunk up the maple syrup. The waffle was probably better than a Birds Eye potato waffle, in fact definitely better. But the bacon was the star.

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As I was basically ordering a pudding for lunch, I got some chips to go with it. Funny story, my wife’s meal came with chips as well, but then it didn’t actually, but they realised their mistake and didn’t charge us for them, and the large bowl of chips was enough for both of us and otherwise we would have had too many chips. Not that they were bad chips. On the contrary, they were super excellent chips and I’ve eaten many chips in my time. In summary, great bacon and great chips, fairly awesome waffle.

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But that’s not all. My wife also ate food in addition to sharing my chips that were actually her chips. She ordered the vegan burger with a side of halloumi, but when the waiter deduced from her cheese order that Mrs Midweek lunch was far from being Vegan, she was offered a brioche bun to jazz up her burger. Now the filling was super – a well structured combination of vegetables rather than a soya splat. The halloumi made it even better. However, the playful brioche bun was not up to the job of holding it all together. In fact it fell apart and was all a bit messy. Still she was very happy overall.

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It would an excellent alternative brunch venue to Bills. My wife noted a board saying that you can book a party for 6+ people and benefit from a special menu. It is unclear whether there is a separate room for this but in any case she and her lady friends plan to try it out if only to investigate this secret menu.

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I really like Hatch, it’s a bit more laid back than most places in town, somewhere you can drop in and not have to spend too much and get some quality food quickly and not have to walk all the way across the park to get waffles. So whilst I do miss Panko I am very pleased with Hatch and will definitely be visiting again to try their Dirty Reuben, assuming it hasn’t changed into something else by then.

8.4/10

http://www.hatchstalbans.com/