When I booked a trip to Budapest, top of the tourist list was visiting the city’s famous ruin bars.
To have a good experience of it, I joined a tour in Kazinczy after finishing at the most popular Szimpla Kert, while enjoying the amazing street art and graffiti in the surroundings.
Councils were so fed up with graffiti artists and youths randomly vandalizing and tagging their artwork on the side of buildings that they decided to allow them to spray paint as they pleased on allocated walls, such as Hosier Lane in Melbourne.
An inspired idea, if you ask me.
READ MORE:Review: Oka, Carlisle – colorful food and decor, brilliant flavors in a new addition to town
Now you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about ruin bars when this week’s culinary adventure took me to Blackpool seafront to enjoy a meal at Michael Wan’s Wok Inn.
That’s because Wok Inn, which is Wan’s sister restaurant to the original Mandarin Cantonese restaurant, is a brilliant mix of ruin bar, Penang hawker market and seaside noodle bar.
Getting inside is every Bargain Hunt contestant’s dream, or, for those lucky enough to be too young to understand this reference, it’s Instagram heaven.
But for me, it immediately took me back to Szimpla Kert, sitting and sipping a cocktail in a convertible car, which had been stripped down and replaced with a two-seater leather sofa, a large tasseled lamp and the shaved roof of a phone booth as a table.
It’s fascinating how nothing fits together, but that’s exactly what makes it all work.
And it’s hard not to appreciate the sheer eclectic happenstance of it all – colorful trinkets hanging from the walls and sitting on shelves, a rickshaw cart hanging from the ceiling, a huge painted Lucky Beer Buddha behind the bar, and a quilt of Bollywood film posters plastered behind tables created from original theater chairs.
Now for the food, which is so good, you’ll quickly stop gawking at the scenery and turn your attention back to your meal.
We barely whispered a word to each other. Too busy swallowing the flamboyant feast in front of us.
The menu is designed for diners to share dishes and is a treasure map of small plates, snacks, sides to go with ramen soup, bao burgers, “around Asia” entrees.
You will also get an impressive collection of freshly made from scratch dips and sauces accompanying your order.
It also gave us the opportunity to try two dishes (quail eggs kwek kwek, 5.80 and duck tongue with salt and chilli 6.50) for the first time and we each had a main course which was a new add to menu.
Fried quail eggs were boiled [the yolk noticeably lighter in colour than a chicken egg] and wrapped in a delicate deep-fried batter, small enough to eat all at once. The most interesting “snack” I’ve had in a while and one I would order again.
Now duck tongue is hard to describe and I have never tasted anything like it before. They look like mini chicken wings, but that’s where the similarities end.
Flavors are strong, tart, salty and tangy as you would expect with more gamey meat but definitely an acquired taste.
They’re served on a bed of chilli and salad, with a vibrant presentation clearly an important aesthetic to suit the environment, right down to the style of dish, whether it’s a ceramic plate, d bamboo steamer basket or bowls.
The Thai fishcakes (£6.90) were deliciously light, the flavors of lemongrass and coriander pairing well with the red curry paste, giving it that little kick of spice.
I have a weakness for bao buns and I often order the duck pancakes from a Chinese. So I was drawn to the bao burgers, which the menu describes as a dish inspired by the chef’s hometown of Fuzhou.
So, as expected, I opted for the shredded duck version (£11.90), which was easy enough to eat like a burger, without all the gravy and filling falling or dripping on my arm.
The steamed buns were fluffy and light and the duck was cooked to perfection – tender and melty in the middle, a little crispy on the outside and smothered in a sweet and sticky hoisin sauce. Duck patties are now definitely a thing of the past for me.
Our final course was the beef rendang curry (£15.50), a Malaysian delicacy served in a stacked metal tower bowl with sticky rice, salad and crispy house roti, which had a delicious treat.
There was room in the curry bowl to add salad or rice and dip into the roti to create more flavor and texture combinations, with the succulent beef and the intense, rich gravy-like sauce, smooth and buttery.
Our experience was complete when the waiter kindly donated a few empty Lucky Buddha beer bottles for us to take home and use as candle holders and create our own ruined bar area.
In every way The Wok Inn is away from the crowds of some of the vanilla chain restaurants that dominate the promenade and Blackpool town center and ensures that even when the illuminations are not shining there is always something going on. majestic to admire.
re foodviews of Denise Evans are published every Sunday morning.
The restaurant didn’t know we were coming and our review is anonymous.
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