For the first #whampreview of 2011 we decided to check out West Hampstead's Gung-Ho. Despite having been in the area as long as most locals can remember, a surprising number of people had never heard of it.
Tucked up the forgotten bit of West End Lane, just before it joins the Finchley Road, Gung-Ho claims to serve Szechuan food although to the untrained eye, it's a reasonably standard menu. There is also a "fusion" section, which mercifully means other south-east Asian dishes and not some awful attempt to marry completely different cuisines.
We were shown through to a table at the back replete with the obligatory lazy Susan. I rather like Gung-Ho's decor. It's nicely lit, clean and although quite a large place, there are enough partitions that you never feel like you're in a large place.
The challenge of reviewing places with extensive menus is that you can only ever review a small selection of what's on offer. We ordered a wide range of starters having not done much damage to the two small bowls of pickled cabbage that we got as soon as we arrived. Har gau and beef dumplings were hits, Nicky said the tempura was light, while Chris surprised himself, "I consider myself a carnivore, but that tofu was good". We also had squid two ways and pretty quickly demolished the lot .
Main courses came promptly - portions are not overwhelming but the manager recommended we only needed four portions of rice between the eight of us. The Malaysian rendang (from the fusion menu) was tasty but Hazel and I agreed it lacked the depth of flavour of the best rendangs. Mark and Debbie said they were "big fans" of the prawn curry, while Nicky heaped praise on the seabass. SJ liked her sea-salt chicken. There was consistent support for the lamb in honey, which never seemed to move far from Simon's reach. Perhaps the only disappointing dish was the "uninspiring" mixed vegetables.
Amid some scepticism, we ordered three of the sweet bean paste pancakes, which I really like (but have had before there, so it wasn't quite such a shot in the dark). Together with three bottles of white wine, the bill came to £25 each including service. Talking of service, I rather like the waiters at Gung-Ho. They are very friendly and not too pushy. We were a bit tucked out of the way, so if we actually wanted something we were reliant on them coming to check, but I think our service mark is on the low side compared to other reviews.
So, overall, Gung-Ho probably won't blow your mind or your palate, but for reliable friendly Chinese food in a nice setting it's the best local offering. It also does take-out.
Good for: tofu sceptics
Bad for: i've got nothing
328-332 West End Lane
T: 020 7794 1444