Having previously enjoyed nearly a decade of Not Working Monday, I can report that it’s a day many other workers, especially in the hospitality industries, also enjoy off. So while I would enjoy my very own Bank Holiday weekend every other week, it also meant many of the places I wanted to visit when I wasn’t working were shut.
So, exciting news for anyone still in the Monday Club, you’re in luck. Not only is Peach Garden - tucked away in Ladywell Walk in Birmingham's Chinatown - open, it also offers a special of roast piglet on the first two days of the week. Something that would surely even entice Garfield from his post-weekend torpor, especially when you see the good, in all their glory, hanging in the steamy window.
It's a basic, no frills kind of place (the best kind of place) where, even at a little past eleven the morning, nearly every table was taken. As the only white faces on our visit, we were also the only ones given forks with our chopsticks. A badge I wore with a certain pride sense of pride while trying to demonstrate my best pincer technique.
Strong chinese tea comes in teacups that wouldn't have looked out of place at my Nan's, but be wary if you like yours with added sweetener, as the sugar bowl is filled with a fearsome chilli oil that glows with latent menace.
While the three roast meat and rice is the most lauded dish on the menu (a choice between pork belly, char sui, roast duck and soya chicken) I was firmly focussed on the special. Alongside solo piglet, (as a potion for the table or on top of rice) you can also throw in a choice of another meat, so I added a duck leg for good measure.
What quickly followed was attainment of some kind of porcine nirvana. Slices of meat with, surprisingly, rich porky flavour, edged with a little creamy fat and topped with strips of paper-thin, burnished crackling. The duck may have been even better, the subcutaneous fat almost rendered into the tender flesh, contrasted against the crunch of the sticky lacquered skin.
Alongside the saucer of sticky sauce that’s served with the meat (which tastes a lot like hoi sin, although someone more enlightened may know better) and a slug of fiery, crunchy chilli oil, I can’t think of many more glorious plates of food. A wonderful balance of textures and flavours that even gets me excited about white rice (near the bottom of the pile of best carbs), being the perfect foil for the layers of crunch and fat and heat that sit upon it. A dish that is so brilliantly simple, yet masterful at the same time and always makes me feel a bit little in awe (and a little bit fatter) each time I eat it.
The Ewing went with the soya chicken, something that I have never given much thought to try with all the pig and duck on offer - but, apart from being rather cold, was very well received. Sweet and yielding, it’s also a little leaner than the other options and makes a nice change of pace (words spoken as a firm Wife of Jack Spratt).
Following Giles Coren's sage advice in 'How to Eat Out' - not a sentence I'm often troubled to write - I also ordered a dish of gai lan, stir fried with garlic. Despite the price (still very good value at just over eight quid) it was, as always, a good call. The crisp, ferric greens making a welcome break from the salt, fat and carbs, which at least provided an illusion of healthiness.
As it was the Ewing and I's wedding anniversary later that week, it was fortuitous that we found this 'lover biscuit' - more commonly known as a wife cake, stuffed with winter melon, almond paste, and sesame - at the China Court Bakery, opposite the restaurant.
While not a huge fan of the above (something I should have learnt after trying them before on several occasions), they also had excellent, fluffy double pineapple char sui buns, (that contain NO pineapple, imagine that - TE) that were buy two get one free on our visit. One half-bun for each pork-permeated year we've been married. Pretty perfect for a pair of piglets. (love you babe x - TE)