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Sunday, 6 March 2016

Yu Chinese Restaurant, Alderley Edge: not just for whippets and WAGs

For me, one of life's greatest pleasures is to have a few drinks on a Friday or Saturday night and then go for a banquet at my (pretty good) local Chinese restaurant. When funds are more limited, I am equally happy to pop to my (pretty good) local Chinese takeaway and have a classy sofa picnic in front the telly. In other words, Chinese is not necessarily something I would associate with "fine dining", but more a case of snarfing as many prawn crackers as I can in the shortest possible space of time without making the corners of my mouth sore or getting crumbs on the carpet.

Yu in Alderley Edge is a whole world away from this. It's hidden away behind Piccolino's, with only a small sign alerting you to its presence behind a big wooden door with an ornate knocker that you don't actually have to use (thankfully - I had visions of someone sneering superciliously at me through a spyhole and sending me packing for not being Alderley enough, a very real possibility when I compare myself to the whippet-like girl in tiny dress and monster heels who shows us to our table). The website has no prices on it, a worrying prospect for us out-of-towners and something that, to be honest, would have put me off of booking were I not here to review. In other words, we are suspicious of Yu, and feel we might not belong here.

Actually, we really enjoy it. The decor is bling but beautiful - clusters of blue lights made especially for the restaurant in Egypt hang above each table, making our spot feel both cosy and intimate despite the restaurant being pretty empty on a wet Wednesday night (although they ARE responsible for some interesting shadows in the photos). The manager, Kostas, is friendly, guiding us through the menu (which this time has prices on, some of them eye-wateringly high) before giving up on our indecision and simply choosing for us. We also meet Vinny, one of the two brothers who own and run the restaurant (brother Victor is busy head cheffing in the kitchen) - but more of him and his portable cocktail station later.

We share three starters between us - the soft shell crab special, the duck spring rolls and a portion of sui mai. I'm a sucker for soft shell crab and this is excellent - the batter is light and crisp, the crab satisfyingly chewy and the accompanying crispy noodles a nice foil for the spiciness of the chillies and onions scattered over the top. The spring rolls are each the approximate size of a small bungalow and are packed with dense, gamey meat - in fact, they're almost too meaty, but I consider this amongst the very finest of life's faults, and we enjoy them very much. The sui mai are fine but actually not as good as the (admittedly excellent) ones from my local takeaway.

Next up, we share the restaurant's "signature dish" - Deconstructed Crispy Duck and Pancakes. I imagine this one is likely to divide opinion, with mutterings along the lines of why mess with a classic - and its £28 price tag is pretty hefty even taking into account that this dish takes more than 24 hours to make. I actually rather like that it's a bit different though - you can have crispy duck any time (and I frequently do), so this take on it made a pretty exciting change (and yes, I know I need to get out more). The platter is filled with different ducky parts - thinly sliced breast, shredded dark meat and small curls of crispy skin - along with spring onions and cucumber in Yuzu and a lovely thick Hoi Sin sauce, and we like the fact that you can vary the contents of each pancake (well, in theory you can - we just shove as much of all of it in as we can, a fact made embarrassingly clear by the number of pancakes we have left over).

We are pretty full by this time, and have a short break before sharing another dish as a main - Wok Seared Ribeye with Honey Glazed Satay - and a side of pak choi. The beef dish is a good balance of sweetness from the honey and heat from the chillies, and, like the duck spring rolls, is generous with the meat (although at £31, you wouldn't want anything less). The pak choi is the best I've had, although it cruelly exposes my lack of skill with chop sticks, and the waitress is kind enough to say nothing as she wipes the splatters from the table afterwards.

For dessert, my date goes for the coconut and ginger ice cream (his face visibly drops when the waitress brings two spoons, assuming - correctly - that I won't be able to resist). This is delicious although quite straightforward, and provides a suitably refreshing end to the meal. I am too full for my own pudding and am given something MUCH better instead - Vinny sets up a cocktail tray at our table and whips me up an excellent smoky old fashioned whilst I look on and ponder the fact that this might just be the most exciting thing that has happened to me all year (yes, again - need to get out more). Vinny is apparently keen to get his tray out as often as possible, although I'm guessing that the place is too full of WAGs at the weekend to allow for such theatrics.

Overall, we are impressed, and we agree that we would come again (if only for Vinny and his tray). The food is mostly very good, although some of it IS very expensive and I would order carefully from a menu where the most expensive dish (the Gordon Ramsay-approved Wagyu beef) comes in at £69. Still, any remaining doubts that Yu is a little too pretentious, a little too Cheshire, are expelled by Vinny's offer to make me fishfinger butties next time I go; after all, it's possible to have too much fine-dining.

- Yu is on London Rd, Alderley Edge, Cheshire, SK9 7QD. We did not pay for our meal but that has not affected my review.

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