Alderley Edge is well-known as the playground of the rich, famous and mostly young – with a weighting toward footballers and reality TV stars. High-end Chinese restaurant Yu is one of the leading lights of this Cheshire town, opposite the biggest Waitrose you’ll ever see (none of your Icelands and Aldis round here, thank you very much).
The barman sports a grin like the archetypal Cheshire cat
It’s not easy to find, hidden away down a quaint cobbled street, a secret for elite food-lovers only. Inside, the space is stunning, all dimmed lighting and purples and dark shades, with huge glitzy photographs on the wall. The staff are cheeringly upbeat and charming. Our hosts works the room like a pro, making a point of chatting up every single guest, while two ladies, impossibly glammed-up for a Thursday night, chew the ear off a barman, who sports a grin like the archetypal Cheshire cat.
The menu isn’t your typical Chinese mini-book with dozens upon dozens of options, it’s a simple pared-down list, split into the expected sections (steamed dim sum, soups, pork, beef, and so on), signifying a confident chef who isn’t out to be all things to all men, but more of a demonstration of skill and imagination.
The salt and pepper seasoning has a rare subtlety
We begin with the wok-seared King Scallop, seasoned with salt and pepper, tangled up with a sprinkling of chewy, meaty wild mushrooms. It’s delicious. The salt and pepper seasoning has a rare subtlety, delivering a mouthwatering punch without knocking out the tastebuds with heat. The scallops are soft, fresh, beautifully cooked and pair well with the sturdiness of the mushrooms. I could have eaten three.
The plate of honey-coated spicy chicken, wrapped in bamboo leaves, is another triumph. I haven’t eaten chicken as tender in months, if not years – no surprise considering the meat has been marinated for two whole days, before being flash-fried at an intense high temperature for just 20 seconds. Again, the spice isn’t the hammer blow of takeaway Chinese, more a slow, comforting warmth that builds and builds. The honey is caramelised on the edges of the meat, the dark stickiness contrasting well with the soft white meat.
Gordon Ramsay declared Yu’s sister restaurant the UK’s best Chinese restaurant
And then it’s time for Yu’s showcase dish. The Wagyu beef fillet. The food obsessives among you may already be aware of it – it’s the dish designed by Victor Yu that impressed Gordon Ramsay so much he declared Yu’s Ribble Valley sister restaurant, Yu & You, the UK’s best Chinese restaurant back in 2010.
But what is it? A dozen or so cubes of the world’s most luxurious meat, wok fried and melt-in-the-mouth soft, with hints of lime and umami flavours – this is a dish so good it deserves to be eaten with your eyes closed, to avoid any distractions. This dish alone is worth a visit.
Crispy shredded chicken – a down and dirty street food classic
At the other end of the scale is the crispy shredded chicken – a down and dirty street food classic. It’s from a whole different world to the Wagyu beef: sticky, deep-fried and packed with potent chilli and garlic flavours. Impressively, Yu don’t cook with the flavour enhancer MSG so everything you taste is all-natural.
This is high-end dining for food connoisseurs, but accessible enough for everyone – providing your bank balance can allow. In truth, while there are some expensive dishes (the Wagyu beef is an eye-watering £69) you could easily choose dishes that cost the same as most half-decent city centre restaurants. Money aside, this is fantastic food in a great-looking restaurant. If you like Chinese food – or, hell, food in general – Yu is a must-visit.