Wok’n’Roll, Oxford

If awards were given for great names, this is my all time favourite named restaurant. It’s the simple ones that work the best!

So having met the oldest of friends for a drink on Tuesday night, J and I decided we were still hungry and headed towards the car to let our appetites direct us to our favourite haunt, when we suddenly realised that it’s closed on a Tuesday night and our faces fell with disappointment and the realisation we would have to eat somewhere else.

J was parked in St Giles and so we wandered towards the Woodstock Road, toying with Little Clarendon Street. We decided there was nothing quite right for that moment in time and had pretty much settled on visiting the institution that is Brown’s when J reminded me of Wok’n’Roll on the other side of the road.

 

When we were at school, in sixth form, we would sometimes come down to this cheap and cheerful takeaway, I think it’s was called Wok 54 back then, and take a Singapore Chow Mein back to eat whilst watching Indiana Jones. Much time has passed and I haven’t been back since, preferring the Oriental Condor to anywhere else, ever.

Back then, I don’t think you could eat in but this was now an option and so we wandered in curiously. The cheerful, friendly guy behind the counter took us upstairs and positioned us at a table by the window. I like a table by a window especially when it’s upstairs. It gives great curiosity potential!

The interior is basic and clean and there is a large menu as well as a specials board. The emphasis appears to be on ‘old school’ Chinese dishes but there are some interesting things on there and things aren’t hugely expensive. The starters were the usual fare and seemed to be about £3-4 for most. The mains ranged from £5-7, the more expensive being listed on the specials.

As we were on our own in the whole restaurant, it seats 51 according to the sign outside, we could discuss loudly what we fancied and we decided that, hunger having abated slightly, we would share a snack and have a plate each. We would be seriously under the weather/out of character if we were to settle on anything other than chicken wings with salt and garlic as a snack and J chose Minced Pork and Aubergines with Rice. I had pretty much chosen and rejected the whole menu by this point but eventually settled on Roast Duck and Roast Pork with Rice.

I love it when restaurants bring you prawn crackers whilst you wait. You so rarely see them unless you spend too much money on a takeaway and they give them away with a bottle of water and those ones are always a little cold and underwhelming having travelled all over the place in a sweaty carrier before reaching you. These, though, were warm and crunchy and everything you need to sate your hunger while waiting for your food.

After about 15 minutes, our chicken wings were brought out followed shortly by our other dishes. The chicken wings were exceptionally hot, in temperature, but nicely crunchy and with plenty of spring onion, chilli and salt. J pronounced them inferior to those from the Oriental Condor but then that’s the price you pay for going elsewhere. Having not been to the OC for a while, I thought they were delicious. J is just too used to excellent quality.

My roast duck and roast pork on rice was huge with great chunks of tender roast duck and crunchy coated roast pork. The meat was sat on a huge bed of boiled rice, which could have been a bit stickier for my taste, and covered in a barbeque-ish sauce. It was delicious. Simple but tasty and just what I wanted.

J’s pork and aubergine looked lovely on the plate. A great contrast of colours made it seriously tempting and so I had to try some. (I maintain not trying everyone’s food would be rude!) The aubergine had been fried to the point that the outside was wonderfully crispy and the inside was sweet and with the texture of butter. It was delicious and had just the right amount of chilli and seasoning with it. J polished off the entire plate whilst I had to leave some rice as I was so full.

We’d had two soft drinks, lemonade and coke, and the bill came to £19.70 which is great value for a quick supper in Oxford.

Would I go again? Probably not because I think the Oriental Condor rides head and shoulders above any other Chinese in Oxford but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.

We left to the strains of C-pop floating in our ears. There was apparently only one song so we knew it off by heart by the time we left, even though it was in Mandarin. Do you know, it’s only Wok’n’Roll but I liked it…

 Wok’N’Roll, 4-6 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HT. 01865 554996. http://www.wokroll.co.uk

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