Food – Hexham: The Golden Dragon. Unfortunately, this wasn’t their finest hour!

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The Golden Dragon, nothing special from the outside.

Well, my visit to the Golden Dragon was certainly memorable, but not for the right reasons. A first for me, in that I arrived at 7.00pm and was back in the car at 7.55pm having eaten three courses and had a drink. Given that we could allow 10 minutes wait time for service, that meant we spent 45 minutes eating. I’ve never ever seen such speedy service. Taking into account the tiniest of portion sizes, I was not at all surprised when checking my watch I found we were in and out in less than an hour!

The restaurant is located in the town of Hexham in Northumberland on Battle Hill. This is one of the main streets in the town which is double yellow lined throughout therefore if you are visiting you will have to park elsewhere and walk to this establishment. The restaurant has no private parking.

After eventually finding a parking space on a side street we arrived at the restaurant at 7pm. It is a nondescript little building and unfortunately, the interior was no better. The restaurant was split over two levels and has approximately 20 tables. It really has absolutely no character, being painted in magnolia along with the obligatory Chinese paintings and the plethora of hanging red lanterns. The tables are a mix of blue cotton tablecloths and pink paper ones? As you can see, now we have a mix of pink, red, blue and magnolia as a colour scheme – it’s painful frankly, and I can see no reason why this hasn’t been addressed.

Disabled access is fine off the main street although there is an inner door to negotiate once you are in the main front door. There are dining tables on the lower ground level area next to the bar and ‘reception’ area.

One redeeming feature was the fact that the staff were all very friendly, polite and attended to us promptly and efficiently. At the time of our visit there were only four other diners, and by the time we left there was nobody, and that was at 7.50pm.

The menu we were given had a plethora of banquet menus – approx six to eight in total and took up more space in the menu folder than the a la carte choices did. Now I suspect I know why – but more on that later.

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We chose the wafer wrapped king prawn and the barbecue spare ribs in honey. These were charged at £8.40. The prawns were fine according to my son, and there were three of them to a starter serving. My ribs, however, were what I call ‘riblets’, in other words, they were ribs chopped into bits as opposed to a proper full-size rib bone. They were dry, tough, and had it not been for the honey dressing, would have been completely tasteless. It was just as well we were given finger wipes as the starters were served without any cutlery.

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Next up were the mains. I chose the chicken in Chinese mushroom while my son opted for the duck in plum sauce. For our rice, we chose to take the king prawn fried rice for two to share. These were served almost immediately the starters were removed. The portion size was, well to be blunt, unacceptable. The small oval side plate had, at best a very small duck breast sliced up, or at worse half a normal size duck breast.

My chicken was, again, a tiny portion and had been filled out on the plate with onion, carrots and bog standard closed cup mushrooms. They certainly were not Chinese mushrooms. Both main dishes were tasty enough, with tender pieces of meat, the gravy/sauce was perfectly acceptable and not too overpowering, so the chef obviously knows how to cook, he just doesn’t appear to realise what should constitute a reasonable portion size.

As for the rice, that was pitiful. A small soup bowl arrived with our choice of the speciality rice, king prawn fried rice for two. On investigation it contained four, yes that’s right, four standard supermarket variety king prawns! Anywhere else I have ever ordered this rice as a side dish for two, a reasonable size bowl is served containing a good dozen prawns. This was a poor excuse of a rice dish to be served to two diners. Now I can see why they advertise heavily on the banquet menus – it’s because on these they appear to serve several dishes, which would probably be sufficient to constitute a decent meal. If you’re ordering a la carte, which, I’m afraid like us, you’re going to be hungry when you leave. The cost of the main courses was £21.00

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The dessert menus were requested in the hope that this would salvage something of the meal. Which, partly they did. We were presented with an A5 laminated card containing the usual selection of pre-packed ice cream desserts, which, in my view is the height of laziness. Is it too much to ask to expect a kitchen to be able to offer some reasonable choice of Chinese desserts as opposed to these disgusting frozen ‘delights’? Well on the back page there was a choice – banana or pineapple fritters! In fairness the banana fritters we ordered were actually very good, nice light crispy batter, not overcooked, a good size banana and not drowning in syrup. The latter were charged at £3.50 each.

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The total cost for the meal was £42.80, and had the portion size been adequate, i would have had no complaint about being charged this for a meal for two. Given we both left the establishment hungry within an hour of actually arriving, then this charge is excessive.

Perhaps we just hit the Golden Dragon on an off night – it does have a number of good reviews, which was the main reason I chose it in the first place – however, our experience left us feeling ripped off and dissatisfied.

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