Little Palace Chinese restaurant is ideally situated in the small triangle which makes up Alverstoke, a delightful area on the Gosport peninsula.
It joins the Village Tea Rooms as the only other place within strolling distance of those fortunate enough to live in this charming setting.
Little Palace is a typical restaurant from another era, its interior from a more genteel time when seats were comfortable and music didn’t bounce off minimalist bare walls and flooring.
The waitress, although very young, was of the same era, when service was gentler yet professional, not a chore. Done with humour, skill and grace, this sole waitress served all tables on her own.
Red, a favoured Chinese colour, dominates in the small but perfectly formed restaurant: red table cloths, red flowers and red tassels hanging from wall artefacts join yellow napkins fanned out like petals and black lacquer chairs. Prints depicting typical Chinese scenes from a gracious age join a hefty intricate carving framing the window.
The menu is equally familiar, no modernisation creeping into the large leather-framed book. It looks daunting at first but a pattern begins to emerge: king prawns with tomatoes; king prawns with mushrooms; king prawns with asparagus; king prawns with cashew nuts; king prawns Beijing style and a whole slew of other prawn dishes featuring different vegetables or flavours. Read further on to see the same ingredients added to chicken, pork, duck and other sections, the menu diminishing before your eyes into a manageable size.
Of course, there is aromatic crispy duck with those pancakes – any British Chinese restaurant’s must-have to avoid customer mutiny – plus sweetcorn soup; spare ribs with satay sauce; deep fried seaweed (except it’s not seaweed usually but spinach); spring rolls and sesame prawn toast. Sweet and sour dishes join chow meins (noodles), foo yung (Chinese-style omelettes) and vegetarian dishes.
Prices range from around £4 for a starter to around £9 – £10 for a main course with rice and any extras bumping the prices up. There are set Beijing menus for two to six people for those who can’t make up their minds.
My dim sum, chunky pork ones served in a steaming bamboo basket lined with cabbage, were fine and dandy as were stir-fried prawns with Chinese cabbage, onion and ginger. This good, well-seasoned, ample portion, served on a hot plate with a huge bowl of steamed rice, became moreish, my chopsticks flickering satisfyingly from prawn to rice to ginger and cabbage in my tiny bowl.
This is no-frills cooking, nothing to frighten the horses but, with charming service like this, well-chosen ingredients and careful, traditional execution (what Chinese restaurants of yore have offered for many decades in Britain until modern or more authentic dishes were introduced), what’s not to like?
This very good, welcoming, well-named neighbourhood restaurant is to be cherished: use it or lose it. Clearly something is in the Alverstoke air because lucky residents have two very different delightful walk-to places to visit.
My bill came to £19.20 including a Chinese Tsing Tao beer and a well-deserved tip.
Little Palace, 45 Village Road, Alverstoke PO12 2LB
(023) 9251 1120.
Open from Sunday – Thursday, 5.30pm until 11.30pm and Friday – Saturday from midday until 2pm and 5.30pm until 11.30pm.
Food: Four (out of Five)
Disabled access: fine, but little space at the back might make wheelchair access to toilet difficult.
How to get there: follow the signs to Gosport, taking Ann’s Hill Road (which becomes The Avenue) off Forton Road, then Village Road. The restaurant is on the right. On-street parking