I had been slightly put off from visiting Happy Cook for a couple of reasons: Firstly, I had a bad experience in the restaurant it previously was (Yuan Shen) and wasn't sure if it was run by the same people or not. Secondly it being right next door to one of my favourite restaurants, Saigon 68 (formerly Pho 68), means that I usually played it safe and went there instead.
Last night however, I was persuaded to give them a go.
The outside is plastered with pictures of their dishes, a wide-screen tv and a large smiley face on the banner. I didn't really know what to expect. Once inside I notice all the other diners are of south east Asian heritage, a good sign. Our slightly bemused waitress shows us to our table and explains to us, in broken English how the system works. There is an offer where you can eat as much as you like for 2 hours for £15 or another where you get a plate of meat/fish weighing 200g and the same of veg plus unlimited condiments and fresh fruit for dessert. We both went for the second option. I chose hotpot and Andy chose bbq.
We shuffled along to the food selecting area. There were various meats including chicken gizzards, pig maw, tofu fish and chicken heart plus some more familiar items such as squid, prawns, chicken and beef. The other side had choi sum, lotus root, tofu skin, daikon radish and more.
I weighed out my food on a little scale and walked back to the table. My hotpot was waiting, as was the grill and a large mound of boiled rice.
In went a few of my chosen ingredients. Some squid, miscellaneous fish fillet which I'm guessing was tilapia, lots of veggies and tofu. I also placed a couple of these skinny, whole sprat type fish onto the grill.
After a few minutes my food is ready and I pile it all up onto my rice. There is a lot here for £7.95! I topped it with some chopped peanuts, fresh coriander, satay sauce, ginger and chilli all from the condiment bar.
I was surprised to open one of the little fish and notice it was 100% tiny little eggs inside! This also made me a little squeamish and also excited as I had no idea what was going on with this crazy fish.
It tasted good however.
The whole meal was just divine. I can honestly say that I felt as though I'd stepped into China when I entered there. It's a great experience on it's own and add to that, the food was really good. I washed my meal down with an iced tea in honeydew flavour. It came with a thick straw and in the bottom was candied orange zest which was a lovely surprise. It was refreshing and moreish.
For my last bit of rice, I added some more peanuts, korean chilli sauce and honey. A great combination. A couple of pieces of white melon ended the meal perfectly. I can't wait to go back to this restaurant. A meal that good, with that refreshing drink and the welcoming staff for less than a tenner can't be bad.
Food - 9/10
Service - 10/10
Value - 9/10