I was hoping my guest’s decades of life experience would provide some insightful commentary on the food, but as the Con servative leadership race is proving, experience is no guarantee of wisdom.
‘We’re not eating here are we?’ dad says, pointing to Oriental Massage Therapy Centre on the corner of Market Parade .
To be fair to him, he has never visited anywhere farther east than Turkey.
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Aroma is a modest looking restaurant in North Street, on the approach to the station.
Dad is quick to approvingly point out a large ‘Breastfeeding is welcome here’ sign in the window, which is good for a parent to know, although I have no idea how dad plans to make use of this information tonight.
He is also very impressed with the five-star food hygiene rating.
We are greeted by a charming waiter who is quick to offer us a seat – almost any seat, as there are only two other diners in the restaurant.
My guest and I are initially worried the lack of customers is a reflection of the food quality, but throughout our meal more hungry punters come in, seeming to be regulars based on their friendliness with the waiting staff.
We scan the menu and are impressed with the number of dishes on offer. The restaurant can fry your rice in 11 different ways, but the chefs have mastered only one way to steam cook it.
After chowing down on complimentary prawn crackers and chilli dip, I choose sesame prawn on toast (£4.60), while dad goes with skewered satay king prawns (£5.60).
Both are very tasty and come in good portions, garnished with sliced cucumber which neither of us eat.
For the main course I go with the lemon chicken (£6.60) with steamed rice (£3) and dad chooses the Chef’s Special Noodles (£7.50).
I regret my choice. The chicken is thinly glazed in a lemon and honey sauce that couldn’t compete with Lemsip in terms of flavour. Paired with steamed rice, I could not have chosen a less flavoursome dish. And there are no chopsticks on offer to make the experience more Hong Kong and less Havant.
Dad’s dish is great – a rich and tasty sauce with very moreish noodles, and a good portion size. He looks suitably smug.
The restaurant, which is decorated with Chinese paintings, has a pleasant atmosphere that is easy to relax in, and we are never rushed as we sip our drinks (white wine for dad, Coca-Cola for Dish Detective).
We look at the dessert menu, which includes an Egg Man.
This is a yellow egg-shaped plastic toy with a man’s face containing vanilla ice cream. I very much doubt it is a traditional Chinese delicacy, although the plastic toy could have been made in China.
The menu says Egg Man is ‘suitable for children,’ and while me and my guest are young at heart, we pass on dessert.
Dad is full and content while Dish Detective is wondering about the mammoth-sized Chinese fan stuck on the wall.
It could comfortably hold every dish on the menu. Is it for keeping elephants cool? I ask the waiter, but he just shrugs and says, ‘It’s decorative’.
We pay the bill and leave with much smiling to and from the waiter, who hands us two Chinese fortune cookies.
Mine reads: ‘You have an ambitious nature and may make a name for yourself.’
Someone in the cookie factory has been reading Dish Detective’s reviews.
Ratings (out of five)