Saturday, 19 March 2011

Restaurant Review: Horoscope Chinese Harrogate

Name: Horoscope
Cuisine: Cantonese, Szechuan & Peking
Location: Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Ever since my first bite of a Thai dish, Chinese food descended down the ranks of my favourite cuisine. It was like eating Chinese food with bells on, lots more bells... and whistles. I’m not going to proclaim that Horoscope changed these views, but it has gone a long way in restoring my faith in what this vast country has to offer.

After a string of disappointing experiences with gloopy sauces and wilted vegetables, I gave up ordering Chinese takeaways and begun cooking them at home. This works great and I am proud to have that ability. However, sometimes you just want someone else to cook for you. Someone you can trust. Enter Horoscope.

I have eaten in here and ordered take-away. I have tried the char siu barbecued pork in scezchuan sauce, the chicken satay (hong kong style), the spring rolls, the kung po, the crispy duck and a few others. Every time, I have been impressed. There seems to be a good stock at the base of their sauces, mother’s marinade at the healm of their meats. It is these extra touches that make you want to pay the extra. A carnivores choice at the local Chinese might set you back £6-7 with today’s fuel prices, but Horoscope charge more like £9-11. This begs the question; ‘Do I want to eat inferior meat and old veg in a melange of monosodium glutamate and cornstarch thickened salt water? Or do I want to be able to taste the variety of ingredients that I read on the menu, which enticed me in the first place?’ Well when you word it like that...

Like a lot of good quality Chinese restaurants, this has a deceptive appearance. A dodgy name, dated decor and fortune cookies. All of that falls away when you sit in and see families of people enjoying the super efficient, friendly service and the extremely tasty food. Some people think that the efficiency these restaurants show is backed by a desire to get you in and out as quickly as possible. I don’t agree. These guys watch without being intrusive and are there when you need them, because they know that if a desire is felt by the customer, but not met, they have failed themselves and the client.

The duck from here is superb. A bone-in piece is taken to the table and shredded for the customer (very quickly by someone who clearly has years of experience) and served with the usual accompaniments. When I asked how it was cooked, he was happy to answer that it was slowly boiled with flavours such as anise and peppercorns, then deep fried to order (giving the crisp). I never realised this is how it was made. When we thought we were done, another waitress came over and offered to remove the last bits of meat from the bone, giving us one more round of wraps.

The spring rolls were light, tasty, well filled, not greasy and a good size. The main of chicken satay was done hong kong style. Which basically means it is fried in a sauce with veg as opposed to the satay you might know as being barbecued on sticks with a dip. Clean flavours with a smokyness and a good level of heat.

Whenever I have eaten out here, I am always given prawn crackers, even if the order is small. We are always given 1 or 2 more fortune cookies than we need, just in case we are feeding more than it may seem by checking the order. Little touches.

Tasty food and good service = returning customers. Horoscope understands the formula for a successful catering business and I have somewhere to get good Chinese food from on a Friday night. Hallelujah, or should I say 哈利路

2 courses for two excl. drinks £30-35

4.5 Stars NB. All ratings are given with respect to the cuisine and the price range. e.g. a review for 5 stars in £30-40 price range, will not be equivalent in quality to a 5 star restaurant costing £100+

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