PF Chang’s Asian Table in London is the first UK outpost for the US casual dining chain and Felicity Cloake of the Guardian brands it an “international embarrassment”.
Inside, there’s not a stone horse or Chinese lantern in sight; instead, the dining room has the carefully neutral glamour of a high-end airport restaurant – though, unlike any airport restaurant ever, it’s almost empty. Not that this makes it any easier to order; most of the staff have the crepuscular air of people reluctantly working out their notice in purgatory.
The food. I can avoid it no longer, much as I might wish to. I feel duty bound to order Chang’s famous dynamite shrimp: “Always imitated, never duplicated.” Spilling out of a Don Draper-sized martini glass in a slick of sriracha aïoli, the plump prawns wear their gluey batter like damp, shrink-fit jeans. Sweet, spicy and deep-fried, this is food that appeals to our basest instincts and, soggy or not, we polish off the lot.