What with failing my driving test (for what feels like the 100th time) last week, it was nice to get some good news via Twitter. This good news involved eating, and better still meant free food. Do you know what’s better than free food? Absolute bugger all, that’s what.
After a pretty naff start to the week I was delighted to receive a tweet from Chop & Wok saying I’d won their latest Twitter competition: two free Wok Boxes. My parter Ian loves noodles (more than a normal human being should tbh) so he was delighted when I told him; even more so when he realised we would be having this free noodle-extravaganza before the preview showing of Spider-Man Homecoming. I mean honestly, he was like an excited 5 year old by the time we hit the Cannon Street branch of Chop & Wok to collect my winnings..
Now look, I’m not a food snob at all; I fully appreciate the good, bad and even sometimes ugly when it comes to Chinese food on the go. I’ve eaten more drunken chow meins from China Inn in Tyseley than I care to remember, and I don’t regret one of them. Well, maybe a few. Anyway.. so when I say I went with low expectations that’s not so much a reflection of Chop & Wok, but more that I’ve been on the receiving end of shocking ‘speedy’ oriental food in this fair city before.
Often these chain shops are style over substance, offering the same basic noodle and rice dishes of your crap local takeaway but presented in a slick way (with nice packaging and colourful surroundings) to justify the £8+ price tag. In my head Chop & Wok would be much of the same – claggy sauces, bland noodles, minimal meat etc – so while I was happy to grab a freebie I wasn’t expecting to leave a fan; I’m cynical like that. But I have to say, as a grab and go option, it’s not that bad.
Arriving at 6ish on a sunny Wednesday, we popped to the Cannon Street branch – right by House of Fraser – as advised on Twitter and showed my DM to the staff. We were asked to choose a 3-Step Wok Box (£6.25) from the menu, which included either a noodle or rice options, followed by a topping and a sauce. It was nice to see gluten free options plus a few healthier offerings although anyone who chooses courgetti over real noodles, in my opinion, deseves unfriending.
I chose the vermicelli noodles, tiger prawns, and Malaysian hot sauce. The delicate rice noodles were wok fried to be slightly crispy and proved a great choice as they held the spicy sauce well. I was surprised by how much food was crammed into the bright pink cardboard box – I do love eating Chinese food out of those cute pagoda boxes for some weird reason – and the flavours were actually pretty good.
The sauce was tangy with a decent kick of spice and wasn’t greasy or gloopy as I had predicted; it actually tasted like quite a ‘healthy’ option. (I mean, it’s no Wagamama Yaki Soba, like, but it wasn’t half bad). I’d have liked a bit more of the stir fried veg, but there was a decent scattering of the prawns which were large and well cooked.
Ian chose the soba noodles with beef and the black bean sauce. Upon tucking in he realised the beef was actually chicken – not sure how you can confuse the two to be honest – but wasn’t too fussed and ate it anyway. Good lad.
I would go back again to Chop & Wok but probably for the lunchtime deal, which includes noodles or rice (plus a choice of sauce and topping), prawn crackers and a soft drink for £6.75. That’s a worthy price point for this kind of food and service; I can’t help but think it’s mad some of the Special Boxes prices rival Wagas, which is a much better chain in terms of food and eating experience. There is some seating upstairs but to be honest it’s not that inviting, so I’d use it as a take-away option not eat-in.
Chop & Wok, 17 Cannon Street, Birmingham, B2 5EN
*Disclaimer: I won two Wok Boxes via a Twitter competition ran by Chop & Wok directly, and therefore the food was complimentary. However, they had no idea I was a blogger and I was under no obligation to write this review*