Good Fortune, on Old Portsmouth’s High Street, seems to be a haven for the area’s Chinese population.
On the night I visited, the clientele was almost exclusively Chinese over Western.
The reason why soon becomes apparent. There are two menus, one with standard, well-known dishes geared more for the Western market, while the other is a brightly-coloured laminated version, in Chinese, with a few words in English under each unfamiliar dish.
This reminds me of Timothy Mo’s book, Sour Sweet. In the book, new London immigrants Lily and Chen open a takeaway where they sell egg fu yung to women with chipped nail polish after the pubs shut. They and their family, however, do not eat egg fu yung.
‘What would happen if we sold this?’ Lily reflects, stir-frying a village dish of liver, dried squid, spring onion and salt ham.
‘We would be out of business next week,’ says Chen.
The new management at Good Fortune have decided to offer real Chinese food, and not just for the Chinese market. So the restaurant straddles genuine Chinese dishes and Western-style ones. Both sides of the bread are buttered.
This does point to a growing demand for good Chinese food, a sea change from Indian restaurants which seem to be on the wane in the area.
But just what are these ‘real’ dishes here? Clay pots feature frogs, kidneys, liver, beef and other meats including pigs’ intestines. It’s a technique of cooking very healthy food in an unglazed pot which has been soaked in water to release steam during the cooking process in the oven.
Now, don’t curl up your noses at the thought of offal and frogs. There’s more to life than Peking duck and sweet and sour – although the latter is on the standard menu alongside Szechuan duck with shredded crispy chilli; stir-fried pineapple prawns; black bean sauce with squid; pork ribs with Mandarin sauce; gourmet seafood specials (a Crystal sauce with fungi, squid, king prawns, sugar snaps).
The endless list visits Japan, Malaysia and Thailand, plus there are vegetarian dishes. And egg fu yung.
The Chinese menu offers sea bass and crab in traditional ways too, plus my choice, pork belly, a Hunan speciality and one of Chairman Mao’s favourites, poached in water and then braised in sugar, shaoxing wine, soy and spices.
Yes, this is fatty meat in a luridly glossy red-brown sauce, the shiny mound of pork revealing soft, melting, moreish pig on top of green vegetables and Chinese mushrooms. The sauce was spooned over perfect plain steamed rice, the right choice for this complex dish of merit.
The hot and sour soup, more like vegetables and noodles with a salty sauce, had to be abandoned before the end as it was too salty and too filling.
And what of the décor? It’s light, thanks to beech-like floors and modern furniture as well as top lighting, with lovely calligraphic framed art and several screens.
Red lanterns help with colour and an ornamental fish tank hisses gently by the entrance.
Service is delightful, but you’ll have to ask for chopsticks if you’re not Chinese. My bill came to just over £19 including a pot of warm sake but not including a tip.
Good Fortune, 21 High Street, Old Portsmouth PO1 2LP
Food: Four (Out Of Five)
Disabled access: Fine
How to get there: The High Street is in the heart of Old Portsmouth, the restaurant close to the Anglican Cathedral on the opposite side of the High Street. Parking is on-street.