Thursday 13 October 2016

Event: Henry Wong Harborne Gluten Free Menu Launch

Eating out Cantonese style is notoriously difficult as a gluten free diner. Sauces, batter and seasoning all make it a minefield for anyone who is avoiding wheat and gluten.

If you're looking for gluten free Chinese food in Birmingham however, your prayers have been answered. Henry Wong Harborne is one of the very few Chinese restaurants in the UK where gluten free diners can eat with ease, and I was invited to a blogger dinner to try it out.

Located on the high street in plush Harborne, we were greeted with a cocktail reception at the bar before making our way to the table. I'll apologise now in advance that it was pretty dark at our table, but hopefully you'll be able to get an idea of what we tried out.

As always, the hospitality was first class, everyone was asked if they wanted a drink and coats were swiftly removed from the table.

Onto the menu, these were specially created for our dinner, but everything we ate is always available, which means no phoning in advance, as each dish is cooked to order.

There were plenty of starters to try, including Chicken and Shittake Mushroom Yuk Sung with Pine Nuts, Asparagus and Soft Shell Crab.

Yuk Sung is always a crowd pleaser, and this was no exception. The pine nuts made for a very welcome addition to the dish and enhanced an already great dish. We were even offered gluten free soy sauce!

The Asparagus was exactly as I like it, fresh, crisp, and seasoned with salt and some chilli, just enough to liven it up.

Onto the Soft Shell Crab, this was the real knockout. Served on an almighty platter that was enough for a large group of ten, I had to try this. Even though I love seafood, I have always disliked crab. I'm happy to report though that I couldn't get enough of this dish of crunchy, lightly battered crab. I would highly recommend this starter in particular to anyone.

For our main course options, we sampled Sweet and Sour Chicken, Sizzling Beef in Black Pepper Sauce, Pak Choi in Garlic Sauce, Honey Pepper King Prawns and Steamed Sea Bass with Ginger and Spring Onion.

The absolute star of this course was the Honey Pepper King Prawn. Sweet, crispy, and huge, this is another dish I would highly recommend to anyone.

Seeing Sweet and Sour Chicken on the menu was a huge surprise, and I happily devoured these as I haven't eaten this dish since going gluten free years ago.

Finally, onto dessert. As a gluten free diner, dessert is something that I would normally pass on. I'm not a huge fan of ice-cream or any other creamy dessert to be honest, and I'd rather sacrifice a dessert and eat a start and a main course usually, as gluten free options are so limited.

At Henry Wong, I couldn't believe the amount of choice available. As well as an enormous fresh fruit platter, there was also Alabama Fudge Cake and Strawberry Cheesecake.

The only problem here was that I had overindulged and by this point, it was too late to turn back. The owner was keen to explain he had searched high and low for the best gluten free desserts, and I too am confident that they've done well to find these two particular cakes. The chocolate cake was soft, spongy and although rich, not too sickly. The cheesecake was also sweet but fresh and again, delicious. Neither of these cakes tasted like a gluten free substitute, and I'm sure anyone would be hard pressed to know the difference.

In amongst all this delicious food, there was also plenty of wine on offer which I'm afraid I didn't try. However, I was also made a very special variation on the Pornstar Martini with a Raspberry twist, which was also very well executed and not too sweet.

Everything from service, to portion sizes, quality of ingredients, taste and variety was exceptionally good at Henry Wong. Star dishes such as the Honey Pepper King Prawns and Soft Shell Crab are worth making a special trip for, and it's incredible to see dishes that have been created to be gluten free without compromising on taste. These are dishes that any guest would be delighted to eat, and not just an afterthought. Henry Wong is clearly a trailblazer in the field of gluten free Cantonese food, and I would go so far as to say it is probably one of the best restaurants for gluten free Cantonese food in the country.

I would definitely dine here again, and in fact, will be back in November to celebrate a family birthday; I'll just have to try and get the others to keep their hands off my gluten free dishes!

*With thanks to Henry Wong Harborne for the meal.

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