With time to spare on a lazy Monday, I wandered for a good bit before finally summoning the courage to attempt a visit to China Red, a Chinese buffet restaurant where Jimmy Chung’s used to be on Grindlay Street.
I’d heard tales of the place, both here and at its branch near the Corn Exchange, but this was my first time crossing the threshold. The glitzy interior evoked memories of airport lounges with a splash of theme park eatery dazzle. If China ever did a version of Butlin’s this would be what the dining room looked like, I suspect.
I found the place packed to the rafters with a mix of unimaginative Chinese and Japanese tour parties and bored office workers. The atmosphere was an odd confection of over-exuberance and desperation.
It was pretty clear that I should have brought Dan, my trusty lunching companion at various world buffet options in the past, with me as covering the totality of the grub on offer on my own was going to be a challenge. I gave it a go, though.
I started with a classic chicken and sweetcorn soup which was pretty good.
The next course was a selection of the starter items. Most of these were greasy and tough going, like an endless lunchtime blandfest at the dullest conference of the year. The sushi rolls did at least bring some freshness.
For main course items, the roast chicken and duck were both very good but basically everything else was poor, including the deeply incongruous Yorkshire pudding. The mushroom foo yung was like grey foam rubber and the salt and chilli mushrooms were dreadful.
So overall, China Red is bright and lively and dreadful in equal measure. There wasn’t even a “so bad it’s good” aspect, as the relentless crashing cheeriness left no room for anything else. If you go and eat just the soup and the roast duck you could conceivably leave satisfied, but there are so many distracting baubles of bullshit that I can’t imagine how anyone could manage it.
Blythe scores China Red
2/5 for food
2/5 for presentation
3/5 for setting
2/5 for service
giving an overall 9/20
I ate: chicken and sweetcorn soup; cripsy wonton, crispy duck pancake, onion ring, chicken things, fish thing, spring roll, crab claw, salt and chilli prawns, prawn toast, prawn crackers, chips, chilli chips; roast pork, duck and chicken, aubergine, beef curry, salt and chilli mushrooms, mushroon foo yung, Yorkshire pudding
I drank: green tea
I wore: grey
Total bill: £10.49
Address: 30 Grindlay St, Edinburgh EH3 9AP