The population of Espiritu Santo is between 30-40,000 people. As such the town of Luganville is fairly small and basically just one main street barely stretching 100mtrs in length. So finding a myriad of dining options in the town isn’t possible.
We had heard of the Chinese restaurant and been told it has to be seen to be believed so we put this on our ‘must-do’ list.
After a very wet and soggy day, there was a pause in the constant rain so we seized that moment to drive into town – local style. That’s where you don’t bother with seat belts and you put your kids in the back of the Hilux and just tell them to hang on. And tell them to keep their mouths closed or insects will be their entree.
The drive into town took around 15 minutes and there was no traffic (there never is) and there are no traffic lights. With that and no seat belts and kids flying around in the back, it’s like driving in the olden days.
The restaurant is in two halves with a full Berlin wall between the two halves which is very unusual and we chose to sit in the half I’d call the red half as Chinese lanterns lit the room bathing it in a red glow. If you’re tall, watch your head on those lanterns!
The restaurant is very much ‘Nick-Nack Central’ and there is much to see and discover on the walls and the floor and at the bar and in every corner of the two halves. ‘Busy’ is the word I’d use to describe the interior styling.
We sat at the bar and ordered a round of drinks. Alfie ordered a chocolate milkshake and the others a Tusker, the local beer. I asked for a glass of Chardonnay but they were out of Chardonnay. In fact they were out of all white wine. They were serving red wine but it was in a cask and that cask brought back some memories from the 1980’s that weren’t positive so I declined.
There is a bottle shop a few doors down on the other side of the road so I went in there and bought a bottle of wine that even had a cork. The restaurant is BYO so all good there.
After some time at the bar we sat at the table with its red tablecloth and water glasses in a rainbow of colours that were filled with chopsticks and some twisted tea-towels that were used as napkins.
The waitress took our order and there were a few things they didn’t have like pork dumplings but we managed a good assortment of dishes.
We started with Deep-Fried Prawns. These were lightly-battered and the batter had a lovely crunch to it. It was a very generous serve and a terrific way to start the meal. I passed on the prawn crackers as they looked a little bilious.
Next we had Beef Dumplings. There are eight to a serve and these were my favourite dish of the evening. There was a lovely sauce that had been lightly sprinkled on the dumplings and the dumplings had a very refreshing kick of fresh ginger.
We ordered the Beef Spring Rolls and again, there were eight to a serve. These were very unusual looking and not what we expected as we were looking for that spring roll pastry but these were crispy and tasty and came with two dipping sauces.
The fried rice was a little disappointing and not at all similar to the fried rice I’m used to. However, there was plenty of it and the rice was cooked well and there were plenty of vegetables in the dish.
I do love a bit of theatre so we ordered the Sizzling Beef. There was plenty of sizzle and again, this was a very generous serving. The beef was tender and there were lots of crunchy vegetables however I didn’t really enjoy the flavour of the sauces.
The next dish to arrive was the Roast Pork. This was pork belly with a very crunchy crackle however, the pork was very over-cooked and incredibly dry. There was a lovely char-sui sauce on the pork and despite the dryness, I did enjoy this dish. The vegetables served with it were fresh, vibrantly green and crunchy.
Well…when there’s deep-fried ice cream on the menu you can’t not order it and so lastly, it was ordered for dessert. I was intrigued with the presentation and the unusual serving dishes. It was a very generous serving with two balls of ice cream and a banana, a little drizzle of strawberry topping and an umbrella!
I do prefer a staggered dining experience and at this Chinese restaurant the dishes arrive one at a time and without any sense of rush. You have the opportunity to enjoy each dish before the next one lands on your table.
Dining options in Santo are limited and prices are on scale with Sydney prices yet the quality of the cuisine presented does not match a Sydney dining experience. This Chinese restaurant is a more moderately-priced dining option and with its prices and generous servings, probably represents better value for money.
Not only does this restaurant give good value for money, it’s visually quirky and will set you in the mood for a great night out.
Verdict: Lots of fun.
FHP Chinese Restaurant & Takeaway: Main Street, Town Centre, Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu.
Ph: +678 774 1378