Friday, 17 September 2010

RIP Oriental City, Hello Pacific Plaza

Oriental City

When Oriental City closed, I cried.

You probably think I'm exaggerating, don't you? But on the day the food court sold it's last bowl of laksa we drove all the way home from a holiday in Scotland… and I insisted we go straight to OC so I could say farewell.

I ate. And then I cried.

Working from home part of the week meant we got into the habit of going at least a couple of times a month, often more. I'd order a fresh fruit smoothie or milkshake with grass jelly or pearls (large tapioca balls, also known as bubbles) before handing over cash for a couple of items from one or other of the dim sum stalls. After those, if I had space, I'd either get some crispy roast duck and belly pork or maybe some sea spiced aubergine. Occasionally I'd mix it up a little and have a tempura prawn or two followed by udon noodles in pork broth or a curry laksa.

Pete was generally less adventurous, pleased to sit down with his favourite nasi goreng or some delicious noodles.

The place was always buzzing; seats at the free-for-all tables were highly sought after and cleaners did a continuous circuit clearing empty dishes and trays so that the next hungry patrons could sit and eat.

meemalee oriental city
Oriental City's food court - image courtesy of Meemalee's Kitchen

Once lunch was done, we would push a trolley around the enormous supermarket. It sold a huge array of food and drink from several different Asian countries: Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Korean… We'd buy everything from instant miso to fresh meat and seafood to dried noodles to frozen dim sum to Asian beer to white rabbit sweets to fresh mangoes to curry pastes to Pocca (cold, sweet coffee in a can that I'm still addicted to). And so much more…

Sometimes we'd browse the fabulous Japanese crockery store or mooch around in the other shops and stalls, often being tempted by strange gifts for strange friends.

It closed in June 2008 and I still miss it. Heck, I even miss "DVD Man", pimping his wares in the car park, always a huge smile for me even though I never bought anything from him…

Pacific Plaza

I've been reading reports about Pacific Plaza, which opened in Wembley late last year. Initial reports haven't been encouraging but I decided it was time to pay a visit for myself.

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Located in an unpromising commercial plot (so far, so good, Oriental City was in quite a lugubrious location) it was very quiet. As we entered the doors, a couple were coming out, muttering about disappointment.

Upstairs, we found the tiny food court.

Only 7 stalls were open for business; if (or when) the remainder are leased, it'll still be a fraction of the size of OC's.

None of the spotless tables were occupied. It was unnervingly quiet.

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Still, we were there to check it out and slowly made our way around, checking out each stall and avoiding the slightly pleading expressions of the staff.

Menus looked familiar, though prices seemed a touch higher, on average. Not distressingly so though, and I ordered some yam croquettes followed by roast duck and crispy belly pork. Pete opted for a nasi goreng.

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The croquettes were good; light, crunchy exterior, slight chew to the case and moist, well-flavoured meat inside. The duck was disappointing, mostly in terms of crispness of skin and volume of meat to bone. The crispy belly pork was pretty good.

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Pete's nasi goreng was pronounced decent though not quite as good as the one he had at OC.

One other customer arrived during our visit, quietly ordering, silently eating and silently disappearing.

In summary, it was OK but didn't light any fires!

Still, I'm hopeful that if (and that's a big if) it gets busier, the increased busyness will give more life to the offerings – a better turnaround can only help ensure freshness and a better atmosphere!

Tetote Factory

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The highlight of our visit was definitely Tetote Factory, a Japanese bakery that (wise) twitter friends insisted I visit when I mentioned I was heading to Pacific Plaza.

One of only two occupied shops on the ground floor of Pacific Plaza, this tiny space houses a traditional bakery run by a Japanese couple who trained in Japan. Most of the floor space is taken up by the open kitchen where you can watch the staff at work, making the many breads, pastries and cakes on offer. Some are in a French/ European style, others very much Japanese.

You can also buy tea, coffee and fruit juice but note that the bakery has no seating. You can take your coffee and snacks upstairs into the food court if you'd like to sit and linger.

The wall proclaims the popularity of the azuki bean, curry and melon buns (known as pans), though I didn't notice it until I'd already purchased melon and azuki bean pans! I ate these when I got home and, whilst the sugar-topped melon bun didn't thrill me, the azuki bean pan was just delicious – full of sweet, gooey red bean paste in a soft and moist bread wrapping. I loved it!

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I will definitely try the beef curry option next time!

Tetote Factory is open from 10 am to 7 pm, six days a week (closed on Tuesdays).

Doki

When I popped into Doki, I wasn't aware that it was the same shop I'd loved at Oriental City. Utsuwa-no-yakata is now Doki and selling the same range of Japanese pottery.

What I did notice is that prices seemed higher than they were in the Oriental City outpost and I left without being tempted; a rare occurence at Utsawa.

Visiting

If you live locally, or can get there quickly and easily, I'd certainly suggest you drop by Pacific Plaza for a reasonably priced lunch and a chance to stock up at Tetote Factory.

Let me know what you think!

Address: Pacific Plaza, Unit 16, The Junction, Wembley Retail Park, Engineers Way, Wembley, London, HA9 0EG

23 comments:

meemalee said...

Thanks for the tour, Kavey! Sounds like it's still not quite tempting enough for me to get over there, but fingers crossed for further developments.

I miss the supermarket the most so they need to get one installed pronto.

Lisa said...

The closure of that place was such a big mistake. "We're knocking this down to build flats for the thriving Asian community!" "But the thriving Asian community will GO AWAY because you are taking away their places of work and the main reason for them being here." "Oh."

Some of the stallholders moved away to Pacific Plaza and other areas to try and set up on their own. The developers at OC have been trying to woo them back after the whole accommodation idea feel flat, but to no avail as there is just too much work to be done to the OC building, and too much debt. The original commissioners of the OC failed to pay any contractors, as is the wont of big developers.

I hope that Pacific Plaza does take off, as OC was such a fabulous place to go.

Kavey said...

Meems, yes it's not worth making a big journey for, sadly... and especially without a supermarket and more retailers/ food court stalls.

But even when it's full, I don't think it will be a match for OC, to be honest.

Which is a shame, as I do love Tetote!

Lisa, it was a bloody tragedy! What I don't understand is why the current owners agreed to the new buyer/developer's demands to vacate it before said buyer/developer ever laid down any money! If they had not done that, they could, more readily, have kept the whole thing going, when the buyer/ developer bastards pulled out.

I also was not enamoured of all the flat-out lies the buyer/developer made about trying to keep the food court alive, trying to find altnerative premises. All a lie!

Debs said...

Oh how I wish we had places like OC here in Spain, life would be so much better for us foodies!

Jenny Eatwell said...

Never mind Spain, I wish we had something of its ilk here in Bournemouth! :)

Helena Lee said...

I'm glad you've covered pacific plaza. I remember when Oriental City opened - sega world and the food court were the best things in the world, even if I was dragged there by parents. So sad there is no supermarket. Loon Fung it may have to be instead. x

Lisa said...

I think there were just so many lies going around that no-one really knew what was going on. I got the full story from friends who Know People and it was so complicated that I lost the will to live!

Kind of A does something for B, then B doesn't pay, so C comes along and double-crosses A and B, D turns up, lies a bit then buggers off leaving A, B and C in trouble who also then bugger off leaving the traders floundering.

Kavey said...

Poo! That sucks... most strongly of all for the hard-working and wonderful people who made OC what it was. So sad.

Lisa said...

The chef from the best sushi stand (which I cannot remember the name of duh) went to a place called Ikura near Chalk Farm station. Oh my WORD the food is to die for. I am pimping because, well, I have to share and support them in some way! The miso aubergine and crispy duck salad is out of this world, plus the sushi is just fabulous.

(Ah, this is them. The eat in menu is much bigger. http://www.ikura.uktakeaway.com/menu1.php)

Kavey said...

Oooh thank you! That's a fab reco!

Lisa said...

My work here is done. :)

Kavey said...

Heh! ;)

Wen said...

ah well. will have to stick to Impress and (a much smaller) Oritental City on Queensway for asian groceries then.

@Lisa will def check out Ikura. Thanks

Gourmet Chick said...

I am a sucker for Japanese crockery as well - any other suggestions for places to get it in London?

Kavey said...

Wen, I think the OC supermarket moved to Bayswater, but smaller than original at OC, so I heard?

Gourmet Chick, I have heard of one place, let me check the name as I have forgotten!

Heavenly Housewife said...

That is why you and I are kindred spirits. I too could cry over food, for many reasons (nostalgia, when I am dieting and dont get to eat what I want, or just for pure goodness of something). I wish I was joking, but I'm not.
*kisses* HH

Northern Snippet said...

Its a shame when facilities like this close especially good ones with interesting shops.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

The closure of Oriental City was a disgrace. It's a bit of a trek from me so I only managed to go there once but I could see how vital it was to the Chinese community and I have friends who used to go there at least once a week. I'm not sure I'll manage to get over to Wembley, it doesn't really look like it's worth the trip.

As soon as Ted can sit still on high stools I'm taking him straight back to my favourite Chinese restaurant, "Stick and Bowl" in High St Kensington.

Kavey said...

NS, Sarah yes a shame and YES YES YES a disgrace!

Anonymous said...

Work round the corner from PP and had lunch a couple of times there. Quality and variety of food is not as good as OC but for lunch its not bad. Wont come here on purpose as there are no good retail shops and and restaurants to attract me. There is a chinese restaurant outside (Round the corner), for dim sum and evening meals but have yet to try. Hope it gets better at PP as it will lighten up my lunch hour's!!! lol

As for OC it is all boarded up and is a sight for sore eyes when I drive past each morning. They should of just left it alone!

Kavey said...

Hi Anon, yes worth a visit if live or work very locally, but just not the pull that OC was. I live in hope!

JT said...

Tetote Bakery,
this probably is one of the best kept secrets in London. It deserved so much more.
I discovered this bakery a couple of months ago and since than I have made every effort to revisit it. The smell of freshly baked buns and breads draw you into the bakery like magnets. The first impression did not disappoint, so far I have tried almost every single buns and bread it offers and there is none that I dislike, I love them all.
very friendly staffs and the buns are not pricey by London's standard and offer a fresh savoury experience in all its offerings.

Kavey said...

Thanks for your comment, JT!
I wish I loved closer, I'd visit it a lot more.
But I believe the supermarket is open now so I want to get back there and check it out!