Customer Reviews and Feedback

We almost missed the New King Wah restaurant, so busy were we looking for gold Chinese characters and bright neon lights flashing out into the street. But this Cantonese restaurant in Newark's Kirkgate has opted for understatement and sophistication in its exterior design - a theme which is carried through to the inside.

Diners ascend a short flight of steps to an elegant foyer and from there pass straight into the spacious bar. The restaurant is large - it seats 100 people - but is divided up by pillars and plants and the tables are set far enough apart for privacy and easy conversation, giving a feeling of intimacy.

There isn't an embroidered picture or fringed lantern in sight and it's only when you look closely that you notice the shades on the wall lights are in a half-opened fan shape but apart from that, and the carved chest in the foyer, there isn't a particularly 'Chinese' feel to the restaurant.

The menu was large so in the end we readily accepted the restaurant owner, Mr Chan's offer of putting together a meal for us. This is a wise decision because it really does steer you down paths you might otherwise not explore - and each course comes as a nice surprise.

Our first course was a selection of mixed starters. There were tiny fresh tasting spring rolls, deep fried wan ton, crispy seaweed and, most exciting of all for me, paper wrapped king prawns. The paper in question was rice paper, redeemed from its position at the bottom of macaroons to provide a crisp savoury foil to the intense flavour and softness of the shellfish. Seaweed is always a treat and with its intense dark-green colour and marine taste you always feel it's doing you good.

Tempted as we were to demolish the starters, we held back in anticipation of what was to follow. We were then presented with three dishes the first of which was mixed seafood - king prawns, scallops and squid - fried in a light batter in which pepper and salt rose to unexpected heights of flavour.

It's worth mentioning here that chopsticks are offered along with western cutlery and it has to be said, one of our party managed the former with complete dexterity. They also help to slow down your rate of eating, enabling you to savour each mouthful.

Forget about these two condiments lounging side by side on the dining room table or paying an anonymous visit to your battered fish. Combined together with the seafood they take on a whole new identity.

The second dish was mixed meats - beef, chicken and char sui roast pork - with bean curd which is one of those things which grows on you. You eat the first piece as an experiment, then the second and finally find you've eaten the lot.

The third dish was crispy duck in plum sauce - really crispy duck but succulent and moist on the inside with just a subtle hint of plum, much nicer than the usual orange marmalade effect.

We ate from the traditional little bowls in which we had placed some of the prawn fried rice which was also provided. The rice takes on the flavour of whatever you're eating at the time.

There was no room for a pudding and the restaurant does not specialise in desserts so we moved straight on to coffee - served by the pot rather than the cup - and mint chocolates. The service was quick and unobtrusive even though it was a packed Friday night in the restaurant. There is a large international wine list although no Chinese wine appears as Mr Chan says it's made from European grapes anyway. There was a Chinese liqueur but I declined as I was driving.

The New King Wah has been in Newark for thirty-five years but Mr Chan who has seventeen years' experience in the restaurant trade, took it over from his father about nine years ago. He is proud of his loyal team of chefs, most of whom have been with him for eight years.

He carried out a complete refurbishment of the restaurant two years ago opting for warm cream walls, a pink toned carpet and spotless white napery to create a clean image - ruined I have to say by my attempts with the chopsticks which produced a Jackson Pollock effect on the tablecloth.

The food is pure Cantonese with very few adaptations for western palates. The restaurant also serves delicacies - such as soft-shelled crabs - which are not on the menu, you just need to enquire. These are flown in, frozen, from the United States. It's a popular place to eat with eighty percent of the customers being regulars so it's advisable to book at weekends.

Historic Newark is traditionally known for its wonderful, picturesque castle and classical market town credentials. However, it is also growing in stature as a center for fine food.

Helping build this reputation in no small way is the New King Wah Cantonese Restaurant in the very heart of the town. Now, you may think that there is nothing new to be said about the humble Cantonese Restaurant, after all they are now as popular as the traditional British Chippy, but the New King Wah is not your average Cantonese Restaurant.

The Restaurant is owned and managed by Mr Chan, whose parents moved from Hong Kong over 40 years ago to set up the original King Wah in Newark.

It would be my bet that the Restaurant has come a long way since those pioneering days, because you can take all your preconceptions and throw them in the bin when visiting this eaterie.

The first thing that really strikes you is the interior design. Mr Chan has managed to combine the luxury of authentic Cantonese restaurants with a distinct contemporary design. The New King Wah does not appear fussy, it is light and spacious and immediately makes the visitor feel at ease with its beautiful lobby and bar area where customers can enjoy pre- or post meal refreshment.

The dining area is laid out tastefully with large tables lending an air of comfort, in contrast with other restaurants which often try and cram diners in.

Our convivial host, Mr Chan, welcomed us and took us to our table by a window that afforded a great view of Newatrk old and new. Mr Chan had taken the time to choose our meal for us, making sure that my partner and I could taste the full range of New King Wah specialities.

We started off with a smorgasbord of Oriental treats that included spare ribs in barbecue sauce, prawn toast and crackers, spring rolls and chicken morsels in a hoi sin batter. This Starter was a meal in itself, however, it whetted our appetites enough for the main course as we sipped on a refreshing lass of wine.

And what a Main Course it was. As mentioned, Mr Chan had chosen for us, and he had chosen well. We were presented with a cornucopia of different tastes and textures of Cantonese cuisine. Before us stood four excellent dishes - chicken salsa, fillet of beef with black bean sauce, king prawns with mange tout and the wonderful deep fried and battered soft shell crab.

And of course this delightful food was served in such marvelous surrounds. It really is hard to criticize the New King Wah. It is beautifully designed and decorated, it serves both unusual and more common and Cantonese fayre and it emanates an atmosphere that is hard to beat.

However, Mr Chan is not complacent. When I asked him if the Restaurant's reputation ensures a full house each night, he simply says, "Our reputation is only as good as the last meal we served."

The first impression to strike you when you enter the New King Wah restaurant is the stunning interior design. Owner Mr Chan called in interior designers from local company Benoy to introduce a new subtle mix of creams and greens with elegant oriental pictures and light shades. We were here for the food, but it soon became clear that the pride Mr Chan takes in the look of his restaurant is matched by the pride of his Cantonese cuisine.

The New King Wah is so called because of the restaurants move from the original premises close to Newark Market place and, being first established some 40 years ago, it is now very much an established part of the towns dining scene. We were treated to a meal of Mr Chan's own choice - a mix of dishes from the extensive menu which contains no less than 151 separate dishes with more combinations than national lottery lines. And that's not to mention the range of set meals for two, three, four, six and more people.

Unlike many Chinese restaurants that rely on passing custom and occasional diners, the New King Wah has its loyal following of happy customers who return time and again. According to Mr Chan this is because diners know they can combine any of the 150-plus dishes in any way they prefer with only encouragement from Mr Chan and his staff even though this may mean considerable extra work in the kitchens.

Judging from our visit to the New King Wah, the friendly staff and nothing-is-too-important attitude also played a big part. As an Englishman raised largely on meat and two veg, the whole experience of eating Chinese style with its spicy flavours and variety of dishes bubbling away on candle powered heated plates always comes as a wonderfully different way of eating. After the customary prawn crackers, our opening course arrived speedily and without a hint of heat loss as two waiters and waitress descended with four large plates of beautifully presented food.

There were Paper Wrapped Prawns alongside Deep Fried Wan Tons, Spring Rolls and a special dish not included on the main menu, Smoked Chicken. A blank bean sauce was served with the course as a dip. It was time to unwrap the chopsticks and pretend once again that I had fully mastered the oriental eating art.

There is a real beauty about eating in this style since all four dishes provided taste and texture enjoyment, you can casually pick and mix and should one dish particularly take your fancy (in my case Paper Wrapped Prawns), then you are free to indulge more in these at the expense of the other offerings. Circular tables help the evening become more intimate and the conversation flow. And a new bottle of New Zealand Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc recommended by Mr Chan from the restaurants own wine list was a perfect compliment to the meal.

Mr Chan's second and main course was a mix of three fish dishes and two meat dishes. Particularly unusual was the Soft Shell Crabs spiced in Black Bean Sauce. This dish, Mr Chan explained, is very popular in America and Japan and, once tasted, it was easy to see why, however picking up the crabs with chopsticks is something of an acquired skill.

The Roast Duck in Plum Sauce and Fillet of Beef in Ginger and spicy onion were both delicious, but it was the Cuttlefish in Spiced Salt and Chilli that disappeared first and was the main reason why my partner promises to be one of those regular returning diners mentioned earlier. But the center-piece of this five dish course served with fried rice was the Steamed Sea Bass, a speciality of the New King Wah, but which you should order in advance when you book your meal. Removed from the bone at the table, this fish was fresh and succulent and it was easy to see why it is one of Mr Chan's favourites.

With the equivalent of nine dishes eaten in varying measure, there was room only for an ice-cream sweet from a large selection followed by unlimited cups of coffee.

Interior designer Marianne Shillingford joined us for the meal having heard of the New King Wahs reputation for fine surroundings as well as fine food.This is what Marianne had to say about the restaurant. "Creating a great environment in which to enjoy good food takes a certain flair. The New King Wah has got it just right. Good ambient lighting enhances the elegant colour scheming which combines warm ivory walls with contemporary oriental paintings and crisp linen table cloths. The dining experience is improved by the lack of overpowering background noise, usually attributed to the hard floors and abscence of soft furnishings that have become so fashionable in modern restaurants. Both flooring and window treatments are perfectly understated while being luxurious and comfortable."