The Blue Mountains are filled with some pretty glamorous eating spots. Fancy menus, views to die for, beautifully dressed rooms. Leura Chinese Restaurant, admittedly, is not one of these glamour spots.
Its menu is stuck wonderfully in the 1980s; the view (behind the curtains) is of the shops opposite, and the room is, shall we say, Spartan. Red and black office chairs, a mishmash of artwork on the walls and Grandma's old china cabinets housing an eclectic porcelain collection - not to mention the 1960s laminate bar along the back wall.
It was cold, we were hungry and we desperately wanted good, old fashioned Aussie style Chinese food. Nothing flash or fancy. No foams or gels or modernist techniques. We wanted fried rice, chicken and cashews, and something that sizzled. We wanted those moreish dishes that come out looking like they could feed an army, yet somehow you just keep finding room for.
Luckily for me, my dining companion was very interesting, because the room is really uninspired. We could have been anywhere in Australia rather than a beautiful garden village in the Blue Mountains, so perhaps there is a missed opportunity with the décor. But still, when you want Chinese food there is nothing better than opening the menu and seeing all your old favourites: satays, sweet and sour, fried rice.
We started with sizzling garlic prawn, which came in the pair-unfriendly number of 7. Admittedly, the prawns were probably frozen and the sauce was a bit jelly-like, but they were hot and garlicky and spat happily all over the white tablecloth. We even drizzled the extra sauce on the fried rice.
This was a great fried rice – a big mound and generously laden with BBQ pork as well as chicken and prawns. Perfect.
The sizzling combination had a half a farmyard of critters including pork, beef and chicken as well as squid. The sauce was hot and sweet although I couldn't understand why it needed to come on a bed of raw onions.
The chicken and almonds were exactly as you would expect, with big fleshy chunks of chicken, slabs of white onion, baby corn, celery and carrot.
It's almost a law that you finish a Chinese meal with a deep-fried ice cream and this was one of the better ones. The oil it had been cooked in was clean, and there was coconut in the batter which added a deepness to the flavour. Thankfully, it didn't come with random chocolate syrup or fruit. Just a ball of ice cream, in a bowl. Done.
The prices are reasonable, with dishes averaging between $13-$18. While it is fully licensed, you can also BYO and they were quite happy that we brought along a half empty bottle of white to finish.
You could also order takeaway if you're lucky enough to be staying somewhere pretty with a view.
Don't expect to be dazzled, the Leura Chinese Restaurant is exactly what it says. And it does it pretty well.