Making a ‘year of the pig’ of ourselves at Maxim's

Was Wagamama creator right to rate Maxim’s London’s finest?

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Maxim Peking Cuisine
153-155 Northfield Ave
West Ealing
W13 9QT
Tel 0208 567 1719/020 8840 1086

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10% off when customers pick up take-away

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Chinese New Year and an Observer guide rating this restaurant were two good reasons too many not to check out Maxim’s on Northfields Avenue.

In his Observer guide to Chinese cuisine in London, July 2006, Wagamama creator Alan Yau, rated it Number One, describing it as: “the quintessential suburban Chinese extravaganza, which has become something of an Ealing institution now that it has been around for 30-odd years.” Would we be in agreement with Mr Yau?

Members have commented on how busy Maxim’s is and they weren’t wrong. We went on a Wednesday but it could easily have been a Saturday. We were second sitting and think this had a bearing on our ‘experience’. Our welcome wasn’t really anything to write home about but the waiting staff were run off their feet. I noticed that many of the tables were on first name terms with the waiting staff.

There was a ‘Cheers’ feel, which is a double edged sword – great if you’re in the gang, slightly infuriating if you’re not. But despite being left to our own devices while we waited for a table, there was a buzz about the place that was contagious.

Once seated, service was spot on - efficient without being suffocating, and very attentive wine pouring (boy, did we suffer the next day…)

We went for the £22.90 Table D’hote Menu. To start we had cold ‘Imperial Hors D’oeuvres’ including a cold mustard chicken salad which was unusual, refreshing and excellent. In quick succession came hot appetisers – including satay chicken and prawns, crispy seaweed (the toasted garlic was a very nice touch), and scallops..

Then on to the obligatory Peking Crispy Duck round. No complaints here. The pancakes were fresh and malleable (something that really impressed my husband, who waxed lyrical for a quite some time on the subject, leaving me free to lap him on a pancake round and fill mine with most of the fine crispy skin. Result!)

And so to the main course. Just to be difficult we asked to swap Prawns in Chilli Sauce for Chicken and Cashew Nuts. However, the prawns were mistakenly brought to the table before anything else. My husband spotted the mistake but couldn’t resist diving in anyway. Unfortunately, I was checking out the toilet facilities so I missed the taster – the head waiter had spotted his colleague’s mistake and ordered her to retrieve his prawns before I got a chance!

We were a bit disappointed with that, and not just on account of our greed. Our main concern was where the prawns would now end up? Hopefully not in the bin, because we’d have had ‘em! And surely not to another table, particularly as the portion had now mysteriously halved in size…

The green bean side dish was surprising nice touch, packed with flavour and not over cooked. Chicken and cashew nuts were good too but since they’re one of my take away usual suspects, and I’d already eaten the equivalent of two takeaways, I didn’t have more than a few mouthfuls. We still had pudding to come and this was starting to feel like a bit of a slog.

Apple fritters were fine but I’ve had better. Since it was past midnight by now it’s probably not all that surprising that they were slightly past their best.

So to sum up, Maxim’s gets the thumbs up from us. Perhaps not London’s No 1 but well up there. I believe you need to become a regular to really appreciate it and I think it would be well worth putting the time in to become one.

Charlie Canniff

March 3, 2007