Ah, The West End! Once a family favourite of ours, it fell from grace pretty quickly during our last visit of April 2016. Back then everything less the salt & pepper prawns were of poor quality and/or tasteless. Nothing we had at the time really inspired us to return; however, we nonetheless came back – after a year and a half absence – because our Chinese restaurant of choice, the Stardust, was completely booked up for a private function. And I’ll be honest: it wasn’t easy for us to say “alright, let’s go to the West End!” We did so with pretty heavy hesitation, but our need for something “quick” won over. So, how was our recent visit? Did things improve since our last visit of a year and a half ago?
Before I get to the food experience, a quick comment on the décor and atmosphere: Basically, the space has remained unchanged for the better part of three+ decades. It’s kind of neat, from a historical perspective, to walk into a restaurant and see how it pretty much looked on opening day, but the “retro” look only works well if the space is maintained. Now, I’m not saying West End doesn’t maintain the space (they do), but they could certainly do a better job of it. The booths are a case in point. Many of them are ripped and/or taped up, which isn’t a very flattering look. If they were to correct this then the space would look retro in a very positive sense – not the “we’re too cheap to properly repair certain things” way. Be that as it may the restaurant remains popular with the locals and, yes, I don’t really understand why. Cheap prices, I guess?
As far as the food goes, we ordered the following: an eggroll; deep-fried chicken wings; a combination of chicken chow mein, sweet and sour pork and egg foo young; hamburger steak; and curried prawns. The eggroll, unfortunately, was very reminiscent of our last visit because it was very greasy and tasteless (not a good sign). The chow mein in the combo plate was also very bland – and the noodles were soggy/overdone; however, the sweet and sour & egg foo young were decent enough (translation: passable, but not that great). The hamburger steak came with a small cup of soup (chicken noodle). The soup was, again, tasteless, but the hamburger steak was a big improvement over the last one we ordered in April 2016: this one was not dried out and, on the plus side, carried a nice flavour. My chicken wings were crispy and hot; and the curried prawns were OK. The ratio of prawns to vegetables was way off – you could almost rename this dish to something like “onions with prawns” because the onions far outnumbered anything else on the dish. Also, the cheap curry sauce mix was way too thick so as to make the dish look sloppy and unappealing. Overall, though, the food came quickly and the service was efficient. Most of what we had were improvements over what we were served a year and a half earlier, so I’m more inclined to rate this place as “average” overall instead of “poor.” In short, West End was an OK backup option.
RECOMMENDATION: The food here isn’t great; there are far better Westernized Chinese options in town (Stardust), but it’s not offensive, either. West End somehow managed to keep their cult-like following even in a tough economy. Thumbs in the middle, though leaning down.