You probably recognise Chafford Hundred as the train station for Intu Lakeside. For most visitors to the small Essex town, they arrive, cross the bridge to the shopping centre, and return to the platform with handfuls of bags. Some visitors venture over the road to the Tesco Express while waiting for their train. And some visitors leave the familiarity of the C2C line to see what ‘Chavvord ‘Undred’ has to offer. Those visitors who choose to walk 0.3miles along Fleming road, will stumble across the single greatest Pan Asian restaurant I have ever visited.
On a weeknight, The Oriental Pan Asian is incredibly quiet – you might find yourself to be the only person in the restaurant for a time – but on the weekend, it’s a hub of activity. Just a couple of Saturdays ago, for his birthday, Dan and I pulled open the heavy door at 8pm and discovered a buzz of chatter alongside the calming sounds of East Asian music.
We were offered a choice of three tables, and picked a small, square two seater in the centre of the room. There, we were able to eat our meal away from screaming children, and the path of waiting staff – we appreciated the option, as that doesn’t often happen in a busy restaurant. Each table comes with a chopsticks and tray of prawn crackers, which are (unfortunately for us) incredibly moreish.
The atmosphere inside the restaurant is lovely. Its decor is classy and minimalist – not a caricature of Asia as some restaurants present. You won’t find garish reds. Instead, the dining area is a clean, brightly lit white, with splashes of ebony and gold. For a little independent restaurant, in a little town in Essex, The Oriental has created a powerful ambience of elegance. I always feel like I should dress up a little when I visit.
Once seated, we ordered drinks. Dan bought a beer and, as I would be driving home later in the evening, I stuck to a spritzer with a splash of white wine. However, The Oriental has introduced a cocktail and gin menu, which I was devastated to miss out on.
Dan and I are creatures of habit, so although there is a menu of possibly one hundred delicious dishes, we opted for The Oriental Eastern Delight Set Menu at £24.50 per head. It consists of three courses: a mixed starter, crispy aromatic duck, and four dishes as a main. Our mouths watered as a plethora of delightful scents floated amongst the tables, but in almost no time, our first course was brought out and presented to us. Then our second. Then our third.
This time, we fared a little better than we usually do. Dan and I are often stuffed by the time we finish the duck, but we were able to make our way through a decent amount of our final course. We greedily shared the Crispy Beef, Chicken in Black Bean Sauce, Oyster Mushroom in Oyster Sauce, and ‘Yung Chow’ Fried Rice, but ultimately were beaten again.
That didn’t stop the staff from offering us dessert though!
We could have easily spent Dan’s birthday dinner at Lakeside, but when we know we can have a varied and flavoursome meal in a fancy restaurant, for a similar price, why would we? Whether you’re local or in the area on a trip to Lakeside, make time for a meal at The Oriental Chafford Hundred. I promise you won’t regret it.