There’s always the risk when dragging your friend out to dinner to a place you’ve only been to for lunch that you might not have chosen well. Add in the fact she’d had a horrible day at work and I knew I was dicing with Beccy’s famous death-stare. Thankfully once we’d arrived at Chung Ying Central and realised that our respective birth year cocktails were perfect for us, I knew the fates were looking favourably on me.
Chung Ying Central opened in November 2013 on Colmore Row, offering dim sum and express lunches, which seem pretty popular with the nearby office crowds – which I can attest to as I’d been for lunch before and managed to fit in a pleasant meal within my lunch hour. It is the latest offering from the Chung Ying Restaurants group, who’ve been in Birmingham since 1981 and also offers happy hour on cocktails as well as dinner, which I was eager to try out.
The aforementioned cocktails Beccy and I tried were from a cocktail list named after the Chinese Zodiac, which is a pretty gutsy move considering some of the animals aren’t exactly popular. Beccy’s cocktail, designed to fit the year of the Rat, was a spiced-rum based fruity drink with lots of citrus and had it not been her zodiac animal I would’ve guessed she’d have gone for it anyway. For me it was the Ox Fashioned, a twist on an Old Fashioned using maple syrup instead of sugar and Buffalo Trace bourbon to give it the name – buffalo being a cousin of the Ox. I was expecting this to be overly sweet, but actually it was pretty well balanced.
In an act of luck, James Wong the owner of Chung Ying Central was in having dinner and popped over to say hello. Call me a nerd but I always like to hear about why a menu has been designed as such and more importantly get recommendations from people in the know. James recommended starting with dim sum and suggested four dishes to us; once the portions arrived we were aware this would’ve been enough to fill us without mains. The baby octopus with garlic is something neither of us would’ve chosen to order and Beccy was hesitant to start, but this ended up being our favourite – light batter with tasty meat which was a little chewy, as you’d expect, but utterly delightful. The Shanghai dumplings were like pork gyoza, well cooked and subtly spiced.
By this point we were pretty stuffed but we’d ordered mains so we dug in and gave it our best go. Beccy enjoyed her beef with ginger and spring onion which she said had a nice warming taste of ginger but not so overpowering that it dominated the meal. My duck in plum sauce was gloriously indulgent with meat which was flavoursome with a nice crunch to the skin and covered in a delicious plum sauce that never felt too sickly. I tried a little of the rice which was good but to be honest I was so full by this point I couldn’t manage much.
Having eaten in many of the restaurants in Birmingham’s Chinatown I’m a fan of their food, but the atmosphere is often lacking (although in some occasions this is part of the charm) and more of a place to eat rather than a place to dine. Chung Ying Central has combined the great tastes of the orient with a modern, relaxed restaurant in the city centre which is ideally located for post-work dinner, drinks or lunch. It’s also reasonably priced for somewhere in the heart of the business district. I’ll definitely be back.
Beccy and I dined as guests of Chung Ying Central and so our food and drinks were complimentary. As always just because the food was free doesn’t mean I was obliged to be nice, nor would I agree to that. Beccy’s death-stare is a really and terrifying thing; thankfully I’ve only glimpsed it when it was directed at someone else.