We visited China Diner last night, a Saturday. We were inspired to go by the many glowing reviews here on TA.
The restaurant was packed by 7pm, clearly very popular with repeat diners, they also had a large number of take-away customers too. This place is very popular, no doubting that. However, having sampled 3 courses (Spring Rolls, Prawns in Rice Paper, Crispy Duck/Pancakes and Sweet & Sour Chicken with special fried rice) we were left with a decidedly average feeling.
Spring rolls: filled with just bean sprouts, no other vegetables, very bland
Rice-paper wrapped prawns: again bland, no dipping sauce other than regular soy offered
Crispy Duck: bland and lacked seasoning, hoisin sauce was thin and flavourless
Sweet & sour chicken, a pre-cooked fillet of chicken coated in a soft and un-crispy batter, sliced and placed in a serving plate which then had sauce poured over it. We suspect if you order lemon chicken you get the same fillet with a different pour-on sauce. These dishes are meant to be cooked in the sauce.
Yueng-chow rice: no bbq pork, frozen prawns, no sesame oil, very poorly seasoned. Again bland.
The food wasn't outstanding in it's flavour or presentation, it didn't excite. Quantity was good, we certainly left feeling full. It was all just OK, average fare. Not authentic. By way of contrast: a visit to any of the many restaurants in Chinatown in London would result in a much better, more authentic dining experience with far tastier food. We're genuinely puzzled as to why this place is so very popular.
The decor is a curious mix of traditional chinese decoration blended with modern design wallpaper and smoked glass chandeliers. The only part that resembles a 'diner' are the series of black leather booths down the left side of the restaurant. The rest of the seating is traditional tables and chairs. It's almost as if this place doesn't quite know what it is or wants to be, there's a lack of congruence between the hint at contemporary design and the traditional fare on offer. As you sit down you think to yourself 'well, this is different/funky' and then the very average and bland-tasting food comes. It's a let-down.
As we left we decided we won't be coming back to China Diner, choosing instead to explore some of the other Chinese restaurants in the Beaconsfield area for a more authentic experience.