It can be extremely difficult to find a good halal Chinese restaurant. And that still applies because this restaurant doesn’t serve halal meat. (Sorry for getting your hopes up.) There are however, plenty of seafood options. There may also be some vegetarian options. I think I saw a big bush in the car park.
For a very low-key restaurant, this place does very well to feed you. We ordered some steamed dim sum, filled with king prawns and chives, king prawn chow mein, and king prawn pai mei. Prawns, prawns and more prawns – the standard protocol of “No meat? Bring me all the seafood you can find”. No matter what, I must have some sort of animal in my main course – be it from the land, air or sea.
The dim sum came as dim sum is, with a wonderfully clean feel. Served in an attractive bamboo basket as a portion of three, the prawn and chives created a wonderful combination of soft, sticky, and crunchy textures, with the chives taking dominance in flavour and essence.
The chow mein had a lovely stringy texture and feel, with strong, powerful flavours from the prawns and soy sauce. The dish felt light and addictive, with contrasting textures from the noodles, prawns and beansprouts, how a great chow mein should be. A perfect combination to ensure you keep digging in with your chopsticks or fork, (depending on how manually dextrous you are).
The pai mei meanwhile, was beautifully moist and soft, and far heavier than the chow mein. The thick noodles were covered in juices and took the prawns in their stride, delivering complementary flavours that were much milder than those found in the chow mein, but equally as pleasant.
I finished off my meal with some passionfruit bubble tea, (no doubt, a very manly drink), which was sweet, refreshing, and well-balanced.
Steak and I paid a second visit to Saikei today, and unfortunately, things weren’t quite as top notch as our first visit, and so, the food score has been brought down to a 3.5 (which is still a positive score). We ordered the prawn and chives dim sum once more, and Steak ordered the prawn chow mein again, and both were just as great as they were the first time. However, I ordered the singapore-style noodles and stir-fried king prawns with chilli and black bean sauce. The singapore-style noodles were woefully bland, whilst the black bean sauce lacked significant strength in it’s flavour, though the king prawns were well-cooked and pleasant.
Value for money 3/5
Dishes here range from around £8-£15, and Dim Sum around £3-£5. For a fairly reasonable price, you get pretty gigantic portions, perfect for human vacuums like myself. Quality does not seem to be compromised either, which is even more pleasing. There were some seafood dishes however that were priced in the staggering £40-£50 mark. Considering Saikei is not a high-end restaurant in any way, I can only assume they’re cooked in molten gold of some sort. Most of the menu is quite reasonable however.
The value for money score also had to take a hit following our second visit. The only items that are really of exceedingly good value are the noodle dishes. The curries and individual stir-fries are a little more costly. My king-prawn stir-fry for example, amounted to £11 alone and the portion wasn’t particularly large. Still, it’s a reasonably priced restaurant overall, and you shouldn’t have a broken bank at the end.
Service is fairly average. You’re served, but that’s about it. Waiters do make the effort to come around and top up your tea, which is nice, but otherwise, nothing special. Service is quick however, and you shouldn’t be waiting too long at all after you’ve ordered.
Service was again, very quick on our second visit, but I’ve reduced the score to a 1. Mainly because staff are extremely indifferent and cold, and do not seem to care about your presence. Our waiter was also a little bit rude and seemed reluctant to believe us when we informed them of an incorrect item, and an incorrect bill at the end.
Unfortunately, whilst the food at Saikei is top notch, the venue is not. Cheap, foldable tables and chairs and paper table-covers take away any sense of grandeur that might otherwise be found in their food. It’s quite a big place and I think it could really be quite attractive with a bit of investment into the decor and furniture. Not the kind of place in which you’d celebrate an occasion if you’re particular about decor, but perfectly fine for a casual lunch if you’re in the area.
It’s not exceedingly convenient to get to by public transport either, being in a Holiday Inn complex that requires a 15 minute bus ride and walk from North Greenwich station, but it’s not too difficult. There is free parking however for those of you who have traded both your kidneys in for the privellege of owning a car in London. My time shall come soon. For the moment however, I shall continue to sacrifice my humanity and self-respect by inhaling other people’s body odour on public transport.
Not much of an atmosphere here. It’s nice and quiet though, so you can eat in peace. Unless you have an exceedingly talkative dining companion. In which case, I recommend ordering some extra large dim sum and cellotaping it into their mouth.
Something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTLwS__ZPqo
Perhaps with less violence though.
Overall, Saikei is a great eatery, and the lacklustre decor is insignificant in comparison to the fantastic food served here. Alas, if they served halal meat, we could have had something special in our relationship, but for the time being, their seafood dishes will ensure we stay friends. If you like Chinese food, (and as a normal human being, you should do), it’s definitely worth a go.
Naturally, the overall score has had to come down, (not massively so), to a 3. It’s still a good place to eat if you’re in the area, and I would still recommend you pay them a visit if you are. Just be careful with what you order, and don’t expect anything from the decor or the service.
Originally published: 30/11/14
Holiday Inn Express, 85 Bugsby’s Way,
London SE10 0GD
Telephone: 020 8858 2028/020 8269 1638