Being the impatient person that I am, when I read that a new Hong Kong Style Char Chaan Teng (茶餐廳) was opening in Runcorn, I went on the opening date to try it out. (With all the bad experiences I have had being the 'white mouse' for new stores, I really should have known better than to go on the first day something happens)
Despite the small crowd gathering outside, there was a lot of confusion with the waiters not knowing whether the people were just browsing or waiting for a table. As a result of this, we were able to get a table really quickly actually.
The menu itself was very long, and offered a large variety of options in terms of food and drinks. We ordered four mains, and with the opening special, each main came with a free drink. It was noteworthy that when our orders were taken the waiters all spoke Mandarin (i.e. they weren't Hong Kongers), when this was pointed out to me, of course, this doesn't matter, as long as the chef was a HongKonger, and the food was authentic.
After a short wait, our drinks came out first, the lemon tea was quite bland and watered down, whilst the Coffee Milk Tea was lukewarm for a hot drink. It was a bit concerning for us that the waitress had walked around to every single table asking whether they had ordered the drinks rather than checking the table number on the order.
Due to the large variety of foods available, I tried my luck with the Unagi Rice. It took a very very long time for the food to arrive. The Soho version of Unagi Rice was unlike any that I had previously eaten (including home cooked versions). The amount of unagi provided was really quite insufficient for the portion of rice, and the sauce was really quite lacking as well. Even for a HK style Unagi Rice, I definitely prefer the Coffee Square version.
When trying out a Hong Kong restaurant, I make sure to try their Wanton Noodles Soup. While the offering at Soho definitely wasn't the best that I've had, it was the highlight of the meal. The soup itself was very tasty, the Wanton had meat (but no prawns) and the skin was a bit thick, and the noodles were also a bit on the thick side.
After those two dishes came out, we had another very long wait before the third dish arrived. My friend who ordered the Yang Chow Fried rice complained that the rice itself wasnt fried enough. It was still a bit wet and clumped together. It did have a nice amount of toppings though.
My other friend ordered the Hainan Chicken Rice. As he orders the same dish at every establishment, I have come to familiarize myself with what the basic elements in it, being Chicken, Chicken flavoured rice, Ginger Sauce, and soup. In this instance, only two of the four essential elements were there, being Ginger Sauce and Chicken. The rice itself had almost no flavour, and the soup was completely absent. The addition of a chili sauce was also confusing.
Whilst the decor and appearance of Soho was nice enough, I was really quite surprised at the level of service and food. The waiters were friendly enough, but none of them seemed to have experience in how to be a waiter. Whilst the place is new, they should really have hired more experienced staff. For a place that calls itself a Hong Kong Style Cafe, I would definitely prefer Coffee Square, or Ho Lin Wah.
Price Range: $10 - $15 per person