China Rose, Bawtry
China Rose is not your every-day Chinese restaurant.
Bawtry is not a run-of-the mill South Yorkshire town.
It’s the kind of place where you can buy a £100 bottle of malt whisky or a £500 pair of jeans on the high street – more Cheshire footballer-belt than Doncaster coalfield.
Fine wines, designer labels, chic boutiques and smart restaurants abound in this very picturesque and attractive spot.
But you have to ask: Does is take itself a bit too seriously?
China Rose employs a strict dress code – no shorts, ripped jeans or trackies here – and there are warning signs on the door as to the acceptable behaviour of children.
All to the good some might say, keeps standards up and kids quiet.
But it does conjure up a slightly rule-bound, golf-club tendency towards conformity that says any old suit is more desirable than those £500 jeans on sale down the road.
Friday evening after New Year and the place is fairly busy, not many can say that. You need to book two weeks in advance for a weekend table, they come from the east coast and Scotland according to manager Eddy Tung.
China Rose has a reception desk as you enter, very classy and offering an immediate greeting and warm welcome by, naturally, smartly-dressed staff.
We are shown to our seats through the beautifully furnished and appointed restaurant which is on two levels with darkened and reflective wall panels and predominantly black and red colour scheme giving an exclusive night club image
First impressions, very good.
On this side of South Yorkshire the China Rose is a treat destination. One of those places for special occasions, even Sheffield foodies know of its legend. The China Rose also has entertainment, cabaret-style and caters for functions and family gatherings. It’s quite the place
We are seated and our napkins are laid in our laps by one of the ever-attentive and abundant staff.
Service is taken very seriously at China Rose.
Waiters employ a Champions-League-class zonal-marking system and stand when not busy at a discreet distance overlooking their assigned tables.
We wonder what their subtle attentions remind us of, then it clicks.
Downton Abbey – or perhaps Won Ton Abbey in this case – where serving staff on the ITV stately home drama stand sentry awaiting a nod or gesture.
We decide to go for the set meal at £20 each.
Not because we’re boring, though we might be, but because it seems to give a good spread of what most people eat when they go to a Chinese restaurant.
Pancake rolls, a chicken dish, a beef dish and a duck dish with special fried rice, and an added extra of pineapple and banana fritters.
The pancake rolls arrived almost instantly. Four good-sized but not over-generous rolls cut in two for sharing.
But no dipping sauce.
When we ask the waitress if there’s any sauce accompaniment we’re told:
“We don’t normally provide sauce with the pancake rolls sir, but yes you can, the sweet chilli sauce is free but the sweet and sour is extra.”
The rolls are crisp and delicious.
Packed with veg and noodles, one with pork, another with what appears to be beef and another with prawns – and all better for the sweet chilli sauce.
Our mains come all together, all piping hot.
Chicken with cashew nuts, duckling in orange sauce, shredded beef in hot chilli and special fried rice.
Good Friday night fodder.
The chicken breast meat is succulent, the water chestnuts and cashews offer a change of taste and texture in a sticky glaze of a clear sauce.
The beef is spicy and very tasty.
Again beautifully cooked with shredded carrots, peppers and what appear to be soft noodles in a dark, fiery sauce.
The duck was the pick of the meats in a bitter sweet orange sauce, the skin still has some crispness and the meat is tender and full of flavor with that hint of gaminess.
But the star of the show is undoubtedly the rice.
Firm but moist with carrot, peas and sizeable chunks of ham and prawns. Excellent.
All very good but perhaps lacking that something to make it a five star occasion. Perhaps we should have been more adventurous.
Then we had our second clash with house etiquette.
We asked for half portion of pineapple fritter and half-portion of banana fritter so we could taste both.
Again the reply: “We don’t normally do that, I’ll have to go and ask in the kitchen,” replied the waitress. After a walk to the kitchen and then the bar he came back with a: “Yes, that will be alright but we don’t normally do that.”
Both fritters were great, in a light crispy batter and a sweet syrup contrasting with rich vanilla ice cream.
The overall impression is of very good Chinese, not cheap, but not too pricey either, and the restaurant has an impressive theatrical presence.
But there is an air that suggests that actually you are pretty lucky to be here, so don’t go making off-menu requests.
And don’t you dare turn up in ripped £500 jeans.
Star ratings out of five: