Great Times is Preston’s longest-established Chinese restaurant. Barry Freeman finds that while it might have one foot in the past, its menu tastes delicious as ever.
Great Times was the first Chinese restaurant I ever sat down in (my previous noodles having been taken exclusively off the lap post-pub) more than 20 years ago, not long after it opened its doors in the old Co-Op Lancastria.
Stepping through the door last Saturday evening for the first time since – at a guess – Spring 1995 it would be an exaggeration to say much had changed.
This remains very much a Chinese restaurant of the old school, from the emerald green pagoda tiles arranged around the walls to the piped Oriental ‘pop’ sounds.
The menu, too, is of similar approach.
There might now be more ‘authentic’ restaurants offering chicken’s feet et al elsewhere in Preston, but at Great Times you should expect a menu little different than the first one you clapped eyes on however many years ago it was in the dim and distant Vesta days of yore.
But if it ain’t broke...
For what Great Times might lack in adventure it more than makes up for in the quality of the food they place before you.
A cracking meaty quarter of crackling spicy crispy duck was first class, and came with more pancakes than you could possibly need, vegetables to match, and would have been ample by itself as a starter for two hungry people.
A portion of har gow steamed prawn dumplings had also been ordered though, and somehow, someway, we found room.
It was no hardship, in truth.
Wonky enough to reveal their home-made origins, these were as far from the rubberised versions wheeled out in your average takeaway as it is possible to imagine.
Feather-light dumpling folded over tender, steaming, fragrant contents, the four melted away like snow.
A pair of excellent main courses followed.
Steamed scallops in garlic were as simple and delicious as they sound – the sauce rich and aromatic, the scollops, just cooked, tender as marshmallow, oozing seafood succulence.
A chicken satay – as old school a choice as you like –showed just why dishes like this have endured.
Once exotic, now an Anglo-Chinese classic, this felt like meeting up with an old much-loved friend.
Hearty, meaty, intensely savoury with that lovely sticky peanutty mouth feel and a creeping heat which, after two or three forkfuls, always creeps up to take one by surprise.
Side orders of soft noodles and rice and a glass of house wine a-piece, change from £50 felt like Great Times indeed.
Here’s to a Preston restaurant with one foot in the past and a future bright as ever.