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Golden Day (London)


Well we've just gotten back from the best Hunan meal that we've thus far had in London. Yes, better than the massive meal at Local Friends.

And it was in Chinatown! Gasp!

Golden Day occupies a rather large two storefront stretch of Shaftsbury Avenue which used to be another Chinese restaurant. Thanks to Limster's impressive long-range Chinese reading skills we had a great dinner there which came to 30 pounds a person for those of us who didn't have food poisoning (3 of us) and 15 for one of us who did.

The dishes were more or less as follows...

Pickled daikon with chilli which was relatively straightforward with a vinegary-spicy flavor.

Some of the best cold spiced beef I've ever had which was sprinkled with chilli flakes and displayed some wonderful knife work (unless they used a cold cut machine.) The slices were incredibly thin and layered nicely in a row. Again, great flavor.

Pork rib and winter melon soup had a lovely milky color and a very light pleasant flavor which cleansed the palate for many of the meals stronger flavors (aka nearly everything else.) Generous amounts of rib as well, though the prices would justify that.

Thousand year egg with pickled chillies was so far beyond what was served at Local Friends, but the portion was tiny. Great flavor on the pickled chillies. In fact, all the pickles at Golden Day seemed remarkably good. I'd imagine many if not all were made in house.

Adorable individually wrapped pork ribs caked with glutinous rice flour arrived somewhere in the mix of the last two or three dishes. Each rib was wrapped in its own lotus leaf and the flavor and texture were both lovely. Again, perfectly cooked and the meat pretty much fell off the bone. Nice texture from the flour.

The next dish displayed some serious knife work and the presentation was rather innovative. Chinese aubergine was carefully deskinned and quickly dry fried. Nice smokey flavor to the skin with the interior meat having a more oily deeply smokey taste. The entire assembly was a Hunan pickled vegetable on the bottom followed by the meat of the aubergine and finally the skin of the aubergine which was layered on top to make it seem as if you were being served a pile of far more simply cut aubergines.

Next came perhaps the most stereotypically Hunan dish of the night. Hunan fish head! Yay! What arrived was a somewhat pickled chilli deprived presentation of the classic dish but it had incredible flavor and the gelatin of the fish was great. A rather generous portion of four heads was served in a flavorful broth. The heads themselves basically shredded if you put much effort into moving them but you could poach bits of gelatin off them for ages. The dish also came with noodles which you added to the broth at the end.

The last and perhaps best dish to arrive was not actually on the menu but came at the reccomendation of our waiter. A mixture of three smoked meats (pork belly, chicken and fish) which came presented in layers was Limster's favorite dish and probably my own as well. Incredible smokey flavor coupled with a light saltiness and a nice vaguely crisp texture of disintegrating fish bone. The texture of the bone was something I've never really experienced before and I really enjoyed it.

Finally, the desert was a bunch of crisped glutinous rice sweets with bean paste in the center. They were made to look like carrots with little sprigs of coriander coming out the back. Lovely chewiness and a nice subtle flavor.

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  1. [Just to clarify - the person with food poisoning was sick from elsewhere, not from this restaurant.]

    "waxed" aka smoked meats are a Hunan speciality, and the smoked pork, chicken and fish dish came across with really well calibrated flavour. It's not on the menu, but was recommended by the waiter.

    The dessert wasn't on the menu either, but also recommended by the waitress.

    It's more pricey than Local Friends, given its central location, but in addition to paying rent, we were also paying for better cooking, although I think I'd give a very slight edge to Local Friends for stir-frying technique in their aubergine dish.

    1. fantastic news and a great post!

      must get myself over there, like, NOW.

      1. Yes, it was a very good meal. My faith in Chinatown is restored! The combination of smoked meats had a deep, intense taste and the cold beef was very tasty and refreshing.

        The noodles provided with the fishheads didn't really do much for me, but everything else was awesome. I was particularly taken by the presentation of the aubergine dish.

        This place is a serious culinary addition to Chinatown and worth seeking out.

        1. Is this place worth checking out if I'm dining solo? Any noodle soups or things like that?

          4 Replies
          1. re: Dave MP

            I think there were some soups. The menu was quite similar in layout and content to Local Friends, so most things are probably better for sharing. But I'm sure you can put together a nice meal for one and it's worth a trip. Also probably worth asking the waiter for suggestions, as ours was very happy to advise and offer off-menu dishes.

            1. re: Dave MP

              For eating solo, it's possible to go with a small selection of cold starters and perhaps the dumplings.

              1. re: limster

                Dropped by for some lunch today, solo. Looked over the photo menu and ordered the Hunan waxed meat platter, with some rice and tea. What arrived was a large plate arranged with three bowls. The first contained some greens, stir fried with minced garlic and a hint of sesame, while the second was overflowing with tiny smoked fish, which reminded me of something between a smoked sprat and the diminutive anchovies which are deep fried into ikan bilis, which had been tossed with a sweet weave of finely chopped garlic and red pepper. Lastly there was a large bowl full of thick slices of smoked belly pork, which had been cooked in a rich mixture of dark fermented soy beans, garlic, ginger and dried chilli (this is all guess work I'm afraid). The pork had an excellent texture, the fat having the yield similar to that of fried lardo.
                At 16.80 (total bill 21.80 including tea, rice and tip) this isn't exactly an ideal dish for a solo lunch, particularly as its size demands one linger over it (the flavours really start to articulate themselves after the dishes have been left to cool a bit), but was a great introduction to the restaurant. It's on the spot where China Experience used to be, which I always quite liked for cheap west end yum cha, before Leong's arrived, looking out across at the curzon. Staff are great, my waitress wasn't super confident with her english but we got by just fine. I hope to return soon with a war party to do justice to a menu which is crying out to be feasted from. Good find guys.

                1. re: skut

                  Great - thanks for your post and I'm looking forward to hearing more. It's a new place and there's lots of stuff to be tried.

            2. three superb meals at golden day.

              haven't had even a merely good dish. standouts for me were the stir fried beef with pickled chillies, garlic, coriander, leeks and the spicy and sour chicken.

              sooo many good things on the menu, so many happy customers - i had to wait twenty minutes for a table tonight.

              2 Replies
              1. re: howler

                Securing a table is probably not helped by Jay Rayner's review in the Observer on Sunday.

                Back to food, I went back recently and had the smoked pork with white pepper. Very tasty indeed!

                1. re: deansa

                  Quite. It'll be packed for a bit, definitely.

              2. I just read a terrible review of this in The Independent. Should I let it put me off?


                9 Replies
                1. re: tvbite

                  no. the reviewer clearly forgot to take his pills.

                  the line about "..version of cantonese fare" should have tipped you off.

                  1. re: tvbite

                    What an interesting review!

                    I'm currently studying the anthropology of food, and one of the big themes we talk about is how different people (and cultures?) might view the same foods or eating practices differently. This review's description of Hunan-Style pig ears is about as perfect an example of this as one could possibly find - I personally like the dish described in the article, and some of the negative qualities described by the reviewer are for me quite positive! I cracked up when I read the description of "a small plate crammed with extremely cold and glutinous offcuts of what looked like anaemic bacon." I can certainly understand how someone unfamiliar with this food would think of the dish this way, but this description is no indication that the dish was bad. It's simply an indication that the reviewer is unfamiliar with Hunan cuisine, and didn't care for it.

                    Overall, to be a bit more critical of this reviewer, I'd say he doesn't seem to really know ANYTHING about Hunan food, and it doesn't seem like he ordered all that well. For example, I probably would not order wonton soup at a Hunan restaurant. Also, in my opinion, saying that Hunanese food is "a more chilli-drenched and ballsy version of standard Cantonese fare" is akin to saying that "Italian food is just like French food, but with more tomatoes." If you go to Italy and judge the food with that criteria, you're likely to be quite disappointed!

                    I haven't been to Golden Day yet, but I intend to try it soon!

                    Dave MP

                    1. re: tvbite

                      On a second read, this review is actually a bit disturbing, and maybe slightly racist....the negative aspects of the review seem to based purely on the "weird" foods that Chinese people eat. The reviewer's date was grossed out just from looking at the menu. You would think that a city like London would have moved beyond reviews like this by now.

                      People are welcome to have their own opinions about different cuisines and foods, and I certainly don't like everything either....but I think it's an embarassment for the Independent that they ran this review at all. If you have no knowledge of the food you're eating, why are you writing the review?

                      1. re: Dave MP

                        you should start a new thread with that topic - why on earth are so many uk reviewers so unabashedly clueless? its like they make a virtue of their ignorance. "filthy foreign muck" you can hear them say. and then the chatter on about ambiance, the feeble attempt at wit ..

                        that sort of review should be as dead as the dodo. the food scene has moved on, but the reviewers mostly haven't. i can think of a dozen chowhounders who write with more passion, knowledge and zeal than almost any restaurant critic you care to mention.

                        1. re: howler

                          I've just sent the editor of The Independent an email telling him that I'd happily take the fool's job at a far lower rate as a recent graduate. I'll keep you lot posted.

                            1. re: Dave MP

                              We haven't had a decent restaurant hack since Durack moved back to Australia. Jay Rayner tries, and his heart's undoubtedly in the right place, but he doesn't have the necessary love of the new/unknown (see his review on Silk Road, which commends the restaurant while admitting total ignorance of Xinjiang food and culture, without displaying any particular desire to find out, and his review of Gourmet San, which makes the common mistake of categorizing it as Sichuan whereas it's Dongbei, a fact of which I was illuminated by this board). This is why chowhound is so important. John Walsh is a total joke, well done to all those of you who wrote to the editor, though since [allegedly] he only got the job by being [someone]'s mate I doubt his total lack of any qualification to the position is going to affect his possession of it now. On a more positive note, Golden Day is indeed splendid, was doing roaring trade last time I passed by, and I doubt they give much of a toss what's written in the Independent (let's let that sentence finish itself). I know no one at Silk Road has bothered to read their Observer review, which is another reason why I love it so.

                        2. re: tvbite

                          Nice. I notice the paper has now dealt with the matter after a period of reflection. The negative comments (ok, yes that was all of them) have been removed from the web page, and you can't add more. Hats off!

                          1. re: deansa

                            Did they do anything else to deal with the matter? Or did they just delete the comments?

                        3. At a recent meal, the smoked pork belly stir fried with white pepper and leeks was outstanding -- superb smoky character. They also had a new dish that's not on the menu (yet) - a whole fish beautifully sliced and probably poached or steamed, covered with the red and gold of chilli and garlic for a spicy pungent tangy flavour. Texture of the fish was also great -- firm but tender. I think it's called la4 la4 pian4 yu2 aka spicy sliced fish.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: limster

                            Unfortunately i had an extremely poor experience when i tried lunch at Golden Day recently...the only positive thing about the visit was the daikon/carrot pickles, which had a nice vinegary-but-not-too-sour tang...everything else was bad and the service was over-the-top nasty...

                            i went at 2:30 with a friend (a young Chinese woman from Beijing)...there were only two people dining when we entered, two more came in later, so it was basically empty...we ordered the pickles, Hunan tofu, stir-fried pork belly, and a sea eel that my friend specified we wanted lightly floured and deep-fried w/ chilies...it took literally 30 minutes before anything arrived at the table...finally they brought out the pork belly (still no pickles or rice)...the pork belly was tough and rawhide-like -- flavor was ok, but we only picked it at...the pickles were good...Hunan tofu lacked much of any heat and was a bit gloppy (even though she'd specified "la" etc in Mandarin)...

                            Then the eel -- not deep-fried as we'd specified, but chopped into non-filleted boney pieces w/ the flesh being pretty much the exact texture of rubber...my friend called the waitress, and another waiter/manager came over and told my friend quite coldly (all in Mandarin): "Too bad, you ordered it."...we explained that a) the preparation was totally different than what we'd requested in detail, and b) we'd prob have been happy to eat the eel a diff way and go with the flow, but that it was inedibly rubbery (and def not worth the 22 pounds they were planning on charging)...my friend suggested the manager try a bite, which he did and it was obvious it was very dificult for him to chew the bite and but he kind of forced himself to swallow it and said "See i can do it. What's your problem?"...(this was all in heated Mandarin, which my friend translated for me)...

                            the manager actually told my friend: "What kind of a person are you?? We went out and bought this eel and cooked it for you and you show no appreciation??!"...then the chef came out and scowled at her also and said the same thing...despite the fact that she asked them to take the dish away and we'd moved it to the edge of the table, the manager *moved it back* into the middle of our table and refused to remove it...

                            my friend made it clear we would not pay for the eel...they brought the check (eel taken off) and we left, leaving most of the other food uneaten on the table as it was just too unpleasant to be in the restaurant and nothing beyond the pickles was tasty anyway...34 pounds for a few bites of pickles, a few bites of gloppy tofu, and to gnaw on some jerky-like pork belly...

                            Needless to say, i won't be going back...

                            1. re: Simon

                              Wow, I'm sorry to hear you had this terrible experience! I have had a number of great meals at Golden Day (always in the evening), but your story would put me off as well.

                              Just curious, did your friend have a sense of how well she was understood? I have several times felt like they didn't understand my requests (in Mandarin) but I chalked that up to my crappy second generation Mandarin.

                              1. re: MonkeyC


                                from all the good reports here, i imagine we were there on a very off-day -- i.e. if i'd gone there solo and gotten daikon pickles and a fish head, who knows, i might have had a fine experience...(but nonetheless it'd be impossible for me to return now)...

                                My friend is from Beijing (moved to London only a couple years ago) -- so there was no language problem between her and the staff...

                                1. re: Simon

                                  and actually, if anything, i think the male manager and the male chef were chauvinstically offended that a Chinese woman was being critical of them and they immediately took a "we're right, you're wrong" stance -- it became sort of a pissing match between them (and was no fun for me)...

                                  1. re: Simon

                                    Well, I could imagine that (pissing contest).

                                    I actually meant perhaps some of the wait staff don't speak Mandarin well, and therefore misinterpreted your friend's requests? To my ear, none of the waitstaff had remotely 'Beijing' accents. Not implying that your friend didn't make herself understood, which would be more likely in my case.

                                    1. re: MonkeyC

                                      A disappointing meal last night. All my favourites but only half the chilli. I spoke to the waiter at the end and he said that next time I should ask for it to be properly spiced.

                                      I wonder if I was unlucky or if this is now normal.

                                      1. re: TLC_Tim

                                        Anyone visited lately? I was planning to take a party of 13 on Friday night but don't want to be responsible for a terrible dinner if it has lost its form! I've never been either so I also don't want to disappoint myself :)