Chinese and East Asian
Walton Street in Oxford has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years. What was once a rarely frequented part of the city now boasts more restaurants than you can shake a stick at. Indian, French, Spanish, Lebanese and Italian eateries are all here, but it’s the Chinese restaurant Zheng, found at number 82, that I headed for.
My curiosity had been piqued after Zheng was described by The Times’ critic Giles Coren as ‘possibly the best authentic Chinese-Malaysian in the country’. For an establishment that has been open less than three years, this is high praise indeed. The staff are rightfully proud of this write-up, and display their glowing review outside the restaurant. As we headed in, we were looking forward to something quite exceptional.
It was instantly apparent how popular this unique and vibrant restaurant is both with locals and visitors to Oxford. But then, proprietor Adam Tan Abdullah and his delightful and helpful team are so welcoming that it would be impossible to contemplate missing out on a meal here.
The comprehensive and exciting menu offers Oriental cuisine to suit all tastes, with Malaysian, Singaporean, Szechuan, Cantonese and Shanghai dishes all included. A very reasonably priced set menu is also a possibility, as is a popular takeaway menu if you’re just stopping by.
We sampled an array of recommended dishes that ably demonstrated the skill of the chefs. We began with succulent and delicious Malaysian chicken satay skewers, before enjoying the sen chai bau: crunchy lettuce-wrapped vegetables with a hoisin sauce. Yet more wonderful flavours came courtesy of the tasty rendang chicken, which had been slow-cooked in coconut milk, and hot and spicy peppercorn king prawns that were rich with garlic. These were accompanied by a generous portion of boiled rice. As we had also been informed that the chefs at Zheng make fresh tofu every day to satisfy diner demand, we simply had to try some of this clearly very popular ingredient, and were blown away by the chai pu tofu. Served with Chinese dried radish, chilli and spring onions, this was far and away the best tofu dish I had ever tasted.
The post-meal vote was unanimous – when we find ourselves near Walton Street again, we’ll be heading straight for Zheng and another wonderful dining experience.