Chinese restaurants are usually traditional affairs, from the décor, to the menu.
Bedhampton’s Imperial Palace is no exception. A black-mirrored, cream-hooded bar presides over the main part of the two-room restaurant, blue carpeting with a floral design adding further colour alongside photographs of Beijing’s Imperial Palace.
The travelogue of photos includes a vast deserted courtyard similar to the one in the iconic Chinese concubine film, Raise the Red Lantern. The beautiful buildings, with their winged tiled roofs, are in sharp contrast to Beijing’s modern skyscrapers which have replaced so many typical Chinese neighbourhoods. This Imperial Palace, once home to the old Belmont pub, seats 60 and is also a pretty nondescript building, opposite a small shopping centre, and near to the A3.
The main part of the restaurant has lacquered tables, complete with glass tops and Lazy Susans gracing a few of the larger round tables. Smart high-backed chairs with shiny yellow cushions add a regal touch, as do flowers.
Pop music bounces around the restaurant and the lack of heating means that not even the red painted doors adjoining both rooms are able to warm up this diner. I had to rub my hands to get the circulation going. Warmth did come via smart, friendly staff – obviously having a riot of fun in the kitchen, judging by their laughter.
The menu, a typically busy ethnic one, includes Imperial seafood bonanza; Beijing roast duck with plum sauce; Guangzhou salt and spicy chicken; Imperial special fried rice; spicy hot beef and hon fei chicken. There are the usual sweet and sour dishes, curries, soups, starters, chicken, duck, pork, seafood and beef dishes. Noodle dishes have as many permutations as the meat and fish ones – crispy ones with prawns, chicken and pork; soft noodles with Singapore vegetable chow mein and meat or vegetable chow meins; rice noodles and rice dishes as well as foo yung (Chinese omelettes) and English dishes.
Vegetable choices include pak choi with oyster sauce and stir-fried beansprouts with onions. A curious section – vegetarian meat dishes ‘eaten by Buddhist monks’ – comprises dishes made with wheat, soy sauce, sugar and salt, alongside vegetables and sauces.
My starter, spring rolls, were identical to all the other ones I’ve eaten over the years. Comforting, not too spicy or filled, the tightly-wrapped pastry roll a crisp bite.
My duck with fresh ginger and spring onion was a glossy concoction, the shiny duck, carrot, onion, ginger and spring onion dish getting its polished glimmer thanks to cornflour. The tender meat was aided by plenty of moreish ginger, the sizzling dishful spooned onto excellent rice.
Oddly, despite the menu featuring a smart pair of chopsticks, these weren’t offered. It was cutlery only, leaving this chopstick user disappointed.
Affiliated with other Chinese restaurants in the area including Beijing Palace in Nutbourne, The Imperial Palace is a pleasing choice for those who are on the lookout for a competent meal, pleasantly served and a chef who plays it safe.
A Chinese beer added a small sum to the final bill of just over £15, not including service.
The Imperial Palace, 37 Belmont Grove, Bedhampton, PO9 3PT (023) 92 49 8833
Perfect in all aspects including a ramp.
How to get there: Exit on the A3M to Bedhampton on the B2149 onto Bedhampton Road, Belmont Grove is on the left, as is the restaurant. There is a large car park.