Restaurant review: G-Wu, Leeds

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I don’t know about you but I’m a little bit on the fence about Chinese restaurants. I like them, don’t get me wrong, but part of me thinks they need to undergo the same kind of transformation which is currently happening with Indian restaurants, the problem being they can all seem a bit ‘samey’. On the other hand, of course, I kind of like the kitsch.

Walking into a carpeted flock-wallpapered emporium with pictures of precipitous mountains covered in mist, the odd Buddha and humongous fish tanks full of poor, doomed creatures appeals to me on some level. Of course, I’m stereotyping but it does give me a feeling of returning to one’s childhood, when things in general were a lot simpler and the great problems of life were shielded from view by one’s parents.

I well recall the first time my mother and father ordered their first Chinese takeaway. To be fair, it was probably around the same time we switched from Betamax to VHS. There was something so alluring about the smells that it woke me and my younger brother and as we crept downstairs, our parents forgave the intrusion and invited us to eat some of this most delicious and exotic (as it seemed at the time) food.

Fast forward three decades (and then some) and Chinese food is, well, like every other form of cuisine. Ubiquitous. The only problem, slight though it is, is that it’s not changed much in that time.

But then maybe it doesn’t need to change. Maybe I’m wishing for something we don’t need in this world, a world in which everything changes with enervating regularity. Maybe Chinese food needs to stay just the way it is - the one constant in the universe. Dependable. Reliable. Damn tasty. Like I said, I’m undecided.

And so it was with this vague, wavering, dithering mental attitude I and my dining companions (yes, we took the kids), ventured into G-Wu, Moortown, situated above a short row of shops facing out onto the main road.

It was nice and clean, the floor wood as opposed to carpet, stereotypical decorations were sparse, everything was immaculately clean. Over in the corner was a neat little cocktail bar, which also served Stella Black (£3.70 a pint), which I’d not tried before and I presumed was new and so warranted an immediate order.

It proved to be very drinkable and a world away from the headache-inducing Artois, which I find ghastly. So, a smart move from G-Wu.

My partner went for soda water and lime cordial (in fact, we ordered four of those in total throughout the night (£5.20 altogether). Service was slick as you like and non-intrusive, so another tick in the box there.

In terms of food, we kicked off with our usual, which is crabmeat and sweetcorn soup (£3.20), which if you ever order from a takeaway will, invariably, be fishstick and sweetcorn soup but, another tick, this did appear to be real meat.

We also ordered a G-Wu mixed platter (£6 per person, so £12 for our table), which came with prawn wontons which, refreshingly, contained more than just air (as is often the case at some establishments), delicate little spring rolls which were had just the right amount of crispness and a nice warm spice with a bit of bite running through the centre. There was also a portion of spare ribs in a tangy but-not-too-rich BBQ sauce, salt and pepper squid (not at all rubbery, so again, another tick in the box) and chicken skewers, which were okay.

From the main menu, we plumped for two main dishes, the sweet and sour chicken (£7.90) and the mixed traditional curry (£9.50), together with fried rice (£2.40), onion beansprout noodles (£4) and chips (£2.50). Like I said, we had the kids with us, so we steered clear of some of the more challenging dishes but having said that, what we did get was pretty good. In fact, it was more than that. I’d order it every time and be very happy.

Which brings me back to my original quandary. How do you go about changing a classic? Sweet and sour chicken is right up there with fish n chips and lamb balti vying for national dish status and there’s little point in tinkering for tinkerings sake. That said, part of me still feels there’s room for innovation, in terms of the genre, in the same way some curry houses have decided to take their cuisine down the fine dining route.

But all of this is theoretical, you understand. G-Wu does what it does very well. I’d like to think a visit would not disappoint. Certainly, it’s popular. Although we were the first people there, having arrived shortly after 5pm, by the time we were done around 7pm, the place was full to the gunwales, with several large parties sprawling across a number of tables.

In terms of atmosphere, it feels calm, the staff are unhurried and yet exude confidence and efficiency.

Dessert consists of ice cream with homemade vanilla (£1.20 per scoop), English strawberry, double choc-chip and Yee Kwan black sesame (£1.60 a scoop) ice cream, a feather in their cap seeing as Yee Kwan supplies the likes of Harvey Nichols.

All told, the final bill slid in at a most reasonable £62.30 and that included a ginseng oolong tea (£2.40), which is one of those long, milky indulgences you really ought to have just before going to bed and when you’ve already got your PJs on.

G-Wu is a family affair, founded by two sisters Mel and Jade and it certainly benefits from the evident passion they bring to the table. There’s a hot of ‘alternative dishes’ for those who want fillet steak or half a roast chicken, it’s also apparently possible to divide the dining room in half if you want to book it like that.

To cap it all, they do take-out. And it’s child friendly. What more do you want?