Restaurant review, Trongs, Ipswich: "This place has stood the test of time"
PUBLISHED: 22:18 21 June 2018 | UPDATED: 22:18 21 June 2018
Trongs has been part of the Ipswich dining scene for a long time. Charlotte Smith-Jarvis wanted to know if it was still as good as in its heyday.
I don’t usually do Chinese – I’ve had more bad takeaways than good. But a close friend is always raving about Trongs so I found myself there, pre-cinema recently to see what all the fuss is about. Usually, I’m told, due to popularity it’s pretty hard to get a table (“it’s because it’s legendary, all the ITFC footballers used to go there” my friend told me excitedly). But by a stroke of luck we secured an early seating on a Friday night – nice one.
As is always the case with ‘sharing’ food, I wanted to eat everything. That initial basket of prawn crackers lets out the greedy glutton in me. Thankfully the lady who took our order (one of the owners) managed to politely reign me (well all of us) in – and good job too because we quite honestly couldn’t finish our feast and were dashing to the cinema loos to undo our top buttons before heading in to see Book Club (great film by the way).
So, to the starters. My aforementioned friend told me she’d kill me if I didn’t try the salt and pepper squid so, in order to preserve my life I ordered it. And it was right up there with the best. Thinly cut pieces of squid (that weren’t tough as a rubber chicken) flash fried to ungreasy perfection in a light batter. My mates Lisa and Nic don’t really do heat, but the pepper was subtle enough to entice them in. I liked the fact the peppers and onions in the mix were thin and sautéed off well – so often these are left raw on the side of the plate in Chinese eateries.
The crispy seaweed with dried scallop did what it said on the tin and was pleasingly sweet and salty, without leaving a film of oil on the plate.
Pescatarian Nic said she thought the prawn toasts were especially good, having a clearly distinguishable thick layer of mashed prawn, and being ungreasy too.
I thought the satay chicken was delicious and not too sucrosy. And a star turn, aside from the squid, was the capital pork chunks. Usually these are literally chunks of pork, but here were thin porcine slices, with a bit of bite, smothered in a mouth-wateringly tangy, sticky sauce that ticked all the boxes.
No Chinese meal is complete without crispy duck, and Trongs’ more than passed muster. It was delivered in the piece to the table and skilfully shredded on the spot to retain its succulence. A quarter of the bird proved very filling for Lisa and I and would easily have fed four as an intermediate dish. The duck was melt in the mouth, nicely seasoned on the crunchy skin, and served with the thickest, most luxurious hoi sin I think I’ve eaten.
We all did a double take when Nic’s mock crispy duck came out. It honestly looked like the real thing. For me, the taste was a bit to cerealy (like bran flakes) but paired with the hoi sin and salad it did the job for our vegetarian friend and meant she didn’t have to sit and watch us drool in rapture over our food.
Already beginning to feel full, our main courses came out promptly, bringing with them the enticing aroma of the Orient.
A recommended sizzling platter of thin pieces of lamb, sputtering in the heat of yellow bean sauce, wasn’t really for me. It was very well made, but the flavour wasn’t to my taste. Lisa loved it.
I was more drawn to the delicately wibbly fresh scallops which had been cooked just-so and served with chilli and spring onions in a light umami sauce. I barely had to chew them.
Our highlight was the Cantonese honey roast pork, which was pull-apart tender and infused with a subtly floral honey flavour, made moreish with a salty kick. Fantastic.
Nic couldn’t fault the sweet and sour prawns either. Big, fat and juicy, coated in a crispy batter and tossed with a sauce that wasn’t too sickly, it was a total joy to eat.
I was ‘des’ so had to stick to lemonade. Lisa went old school with Bacardi and coke– because there’s nothing like a good old mixer with a Chinese. And Nicola had a Chinese beer which pretty much goes with anything on the menu.
A few people have commented the interior looks a bit dated but actually I thought it was quite nice compared to some other places I’ve been to of a similar ilk. The restaurant was very clean, the tables covered in neatly pressed linen and sparkling glassware and despite it not being as busy as usual, the was a pleasant atmosphere in the dining room.
This was genuine and professional even from the moment of booking, when the gentleman on the phone sounded really happy to take my call, said he could fit us in no problem, and was looking forward to seeing us. It’s those little touches that make a difference. The lady who greeted us knew exactly how many were in our party and where we were sitting without looking at the bookings log. And when we were ordering it was honest of the owner to advise us perhaps we were picking too many things – because seriously she could have left us to it and we’d have spent more money and created a load more waste.
They get a big tick on the service front.
There’s a car park almost opposite in Cromwell Square but it’s often busy in the evenings and on weekends. The council-owned car parks on Portman Road are only about five minutes away and are some of the cheapest in town.
There’s a big step to get up into the restaurant so call ahead to make arrangements if you have access issues.
It’s not the cheapest (£100 for three with one drink each) but the quality spoke for itself and we probably over ordered anyway.
I agree with the friend who ordered me to go here – the salt and pepper squid is excellent.
It’s no surprise this independent has survived for so many years and garnered such a good reputation. From the service, to portion sizes, and quality of food, there is very little, if anything, to criticise. Nothing was over salted, over sweet, or greasy. Trongs makes it onto my really very tiny list of Chinese eateries I’ll go back to again!