Picture it: you stumble out of Soup Kitchen at 3am. You amble over to Piccadilly Gardens, knowing you have to get a bus back, but your stomach is crying out to be fed. That cheesy pasta you had seven hours ago is now a long, distant memory.
But when you see the golden arches of McDonalds, you realise you just aren’t feeling it. You want something a bit different, something salty but actually good quality.
Enter Pearl City Cantonese. This gem (get it) sits in the heart of Chinatown and is open until 3:30am every…single…morning. Not only that, but you don’t need to take it away. You can feel fancy AF and have a sit down meal in the wee hours — although the food is actually cheaper if you take it home, so it depends how you’re feeling and how much you’ve just spent on your night out.
I live in the city centre though, and it’s on my walk home from Piccadilly, so I will unashamedly admit I have spent many a hazy early morning in the fine establishment.
I decided to take away this time, though, as the BRITs were on and I wanted the comfort of my own home.
To start with, I had char sui baus (pork buns), siu mai (prawn and pork dumplings), spare ribs in peking sauce and vegetarian deep fried won tons.
The baus were incredible. The bun itself was soft and fluffy and a little bit salty. It was perfectly cooked. The filling inside was a little bit sweet, providing a good balance. It also wasn’t just tiny bits of meat either, you actually got whole chunks of tender pork inside.
Siu mai is my favourite type of dim sim. It’s a combination of pork and prawn filling in rice pastry, which is then steamed. They’re tasty wherever you go, or at leas they are to me, as the flavours are hard to get wrong. However, the siu mai at Pearl City are a cut above the rest, as instead of just minced prawn and minced pork smushed together, you get an entire prawn and proper pork meat, which gave it a great texture. It was divine.
The ribs and the wontons let the starters down though. The peking sauce on the ribs was far too vinegary and the meat was tough. They also cost £7.10 for the portion which, whilst large, just wasn’t worth the money. The filo pastry that made up the wontons was really crunchy and the vegetables were flavoursome, however it was literally dripping with oil, which when drunk you might be able to see past, but when only one can in in the comfort of your own home, it’s a bit off putting.
For mains, we tried the beef with green pepper and black bean sauce, fried king prawns with satay sauce, and fried king prawns again with ginger and spring onion. The meat and prawns were all amazing quality, the beef being incredibly tender and the prawns were absolutely huge. The sauces though were quite weak in comparison to other Chinese restaurants. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as quite often when sauces are too thick and gelatinous it actually detracts from the meal.
Overall, the food is a 6.5/10 when sober, but a solid 10/10 when drunk (a fact to which I can testify). It’s the perfect end to any night on the town, and definitely worth a visit.