17:30 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

The Budget Gastronomer's Restaurant Guide: Tiandi, Bude

It was my Mum's birthday yesterday, so we took a rare outing to dinner. Chinese food is hard to come by in our little area in Devon. The takeaway nearest to us is very poor, and by the time we have got food home from the more further afield places, it is stone cold and unappetizing. So Mohammed went to the mountain, Mum's Chinese craving was placated, and another Chinese restaurant review pops up here!

Tiandi in Bude is in a bit of a different class to the good old Noodle House in Reading though. The food is really something else. We started with the "Heaven and Earth" Hors d'oeuvres platter (Tiandi like their superlatives) which was not like your average spring roll, seaweed, prawn toast, spare rib combo which tastes identical wherever you eat it. Ours contained spare ribs, yes, but in an unusual sticky sweet-sour sauce. It was heavy on the aniseed and there was definitely sour cherry in there. Spare ribs for grown ups. Salt and pepper chicken scattered with tiny rings of red and green chilli were new to me and absolutely delicious (Note: Do not eat with windburnt lips, Dad made this mistake. They are very hot, and very salty). Spring rolls of course but, joyfully, made on the premises and rustic looking, stuffed full and very crispy. Probably the best I've tasted outside of London. Then some mushrooms in a highly chillied version of a sweet and sour sauce. These were the high point. Little button mushrooms in a tempura batter that had softened in the sauce, they were beautiful and unusual. We ate all this with the thinest, crispest prawn crackers I've ever seen.

Next came the obligatory quarter duck. A little fatty but beautifully presented and served with the lightest pancakes, shredded spring onion, cucumber and, unusually, shredded carrot. It came with a hoi-sin sauce which was too rich, but then I don't like it anyway, and a pale orange sauce which we argued about. Peach, says I. Dad thinks it's apricot. Mum swears it is mango. We ask the waitress, who gives us a strange look and tells us it is plum. Just it always is with duck pancakes. Made with delectable yellow plums, it was lovely and fresh tasting cuting through the richness of the meat without the cloying sweetness you find in most commercial (concentrated) plum sauces.

Mains next and we were already approaching food coma. An enormous bowl of egg fried rice, perfect crispy beef and a sweet and sour chicken which was lighter and more elegant than I've tasted. Our prawn dish was ginger and spring onion and the prawns were the freshest I've tasted in a long time, but I would expect nothing less from a restaurant which is a 2 minute walk to the sea! The sauce wasn't good. It looked beautiful, but came with chunks of ginger in it which had failed to infuse the prawns with any flavour at all, and meant an uncomfortable hit of raw ginger if you failed to watch your chopsticks carefully. Shame.

This minor quibble aside it was a fantastic meal, a feast. This is really top quality Chinese food, and imaginative without being cheffy. It is similar dishes to your favourite takeaway, just better, fresher and with more subtlety of flavours.

The menu at Tiandi goes on and on about it's 'genuine antique screens' and very nice the are too. The decor aside from that is predictable. A few lanterns, some dodgy paintings from local artists, new-wood-to-look-old floor, black lacquered tables and leather chairs. It was scrupulously clean though. I was ready to bristle at the service as soon as we walked in, as our waitress was one I had seen before when we popped in for a takeway (35% off, well worth it!). She was boot-faced and sulky that day, so I sighed inwardly when she showed us to our table. To her credit, she was excellent. Clearly never going to be smily, she was extremely polite and efficient and I'm sure she must have watched old Asian films or something because she moved like a Geisha, all elegant wrist flicks when serving our dishes, and melting in and out of sight.

The price then. I thought this would be too expensive a restaurant to include in my Budget guide, but our final bill came to just under £70, which I think is outstanding considering the amount of food consumed! Included in this was a bottle of the house white wine, a Sauvignon Blanc (Joy!) which was very drinkable and under a tenner. Unheard of!

Tiandi is a great restaurant, and perfect for a birthday. The night we went there was one other birthday bash, a handful of couples and some girlfriends-catching-up. They all looked like they were having a fab time. The food is really outstanding, so it's worth a trip if you find yourself in Bude this summer and fancy a special dinner for a reasonable price. Just make sure you walk on the beach afterwards to burn a bit off, you will emerge uncomfortably stuffed!


joyknitt said...

sounds like a great way to celebrate your mum's 21st, hope she enjoyed it too.

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