There’s going out for a meal and then there’s enjoying a dining experience like no other.
A trip to Blackpool’s first noodle bar – Michael Wan’s Wok Inn – is most certainly the latter.
It’s a stroke of genius from owners Gareth and Pauline Lai-Thomas to create such a unique concept in the resort.
A risk too, as Gareth explained during our visit last Saturday lunchtime.
It’s so different to anything else in town that they wondered how it would be received.
They needn’t have worried. It was a risk worth taking as the result is a utopian journey around Asia.
Gareth and Pauline have taken years of experience from their popular Michael Wan’s Mandarin restaurant on Clifton Street and run with it.
Run with it so far, you imagine you’re a gap year student exploring the world without a care as soon as you walk through the Wok Inn doors off The Promenade.
Exposing the natural fabric of the building might not be to everyone’s taste but we found the decor breathtaking.
Think Budapest ‘ruin bar’ meets Penang hawker market with stunning artwork, chipboard flooring printed with a mosaic design, exposed beams and brickwork, and even a rickshaw on display in the bar area.
It’s a feast for the senses.
And that leads us to the feast of food which we thoroughly enjoyed.
We sat in cinema chairs (a quirky surprise which the children loved) in one of the booths at the rear of the restaurant where the walls are adorned with film posters.
The menu offers a variety of dishes inspired by Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai fare.
There’s not a specific children’s menu (I don’t blame them; fish fingers and baked beans wouldn’t really go with their style) but there are certainly child-friendly dishes.
The roti canai (£4.50) – fluffy flatbread served with spicy curry sauce – and the BBQ ribs (£6.50) went down well with our youngest diners.
And although we didn’t try it, I’d imagine the lollipop chicken with a sweet chilli dip (£4.80) would be another good children’s option.
Two of our favourite dishes from the ‘small plates’ section of the menu were the pork gyoza (£5.75) – delicious pork and vegetable dumplings, pan-fried to seal in the flavour – and satay chicken skewers (£5.50).
I first tried satay sauce in Bali nearly 20 years ago and nothing has ever come close to that sweet, creamy taste. Until now.
More authentic flavours came from the pad Thai (£8.50) which was a huge portion of stir-fried noodles, chicken, and shrimps, with chilli, nuts and lime.
If you like a dish with a chilli kick, then go for the Singapore vermicelli (£9.50).
The rice noodles were cooked perfectly and there was plenty of shredded pork, shrimps, vegetables, chilli and sesame.
The hubby’s choice of Donburi (rice in a stone bowl) with duck breast (£12.90) drew the most intrigue from around the table.
Named after the bowl it’s served in – a don – it combines steamed rice, duck (tofu, steak, seabass fillet, beef, and chicken are other options) vegetables, salad, salted duck egg and a sweet soy dressing.
It’s a fun way to eat and was declared delicious by the hubby – which is quite something from a man who normally does everything in his power to avoid salad.
We also ordered some Vietnamese prawn crackers (£2.50) and it’s worth noting gluten free soy, curries, and rice noodles are available.
The bill, with drinks, came to £70 which seems reasonable for a feast for five – especially considering the quality of food, friendly service and spectacular surroundings.
It’s become our family’s new favourite resort restaurant.
Gazette rating: 10 out of 10