Supper Club: Michael Wan’s Wok Inn

In his latest instalment of Supper Club, Tim Christian takes his tourist friends to a gem in Blackpool’s culinary offer but regrets having over indulged the night before.

It’s not every food post that starts with a content warning for sexually explicit imagery, but this one does… so… there we are.

Last week I wrote about bringing my online friends into my real world realm and taking them out to Common Bar & Kitchen on the Friday night of their arrival. Tacos and burritos followed by a refreshing trip round a number of the fine Blackpool drinking establishments and a hefty walk home for me after I missed my last tram home.

The next day I was not exactly feeling my freshest – a head and mouth full of cotton wool. But I couldn’t limp around feeling sorry for myself. Not only did I have a day of showing off the sights of my beautiful town, we had a table booked at a place I’d been looking forward to for months. I simply had to persevere.

The interior of the place looks like someone has taken the contents of a dozen gap-yah backpackers souvenir suitcases and some old cinema seating and fired them out of a cannon to see where they land.

We had another member of the Warzone group joining us today, making us five, and then the day was spent doing very touristy things. We met up in town and visited a pier, visited Notarianni’s (another venerable Blackpool institution), did proper grown-up shit like ride the dodgems and play on the arcades – perfecting the coin-pumping technique for the 2p push machines at the arcade – running the seagull gauntlet of eating fish and chips on the prom – all the classics that were mostly unspoiled by my mild hangover.

The evening came around and we arrived at Wok Inn for our booking, being ushered in from the prom to our table and straight into a vibrant space that assaults the senses. The interior of the place looks like someone has taken Asian movie posters, Buddha statues, oriental art, the contents of a dozen gap-yah backpackers souvenir suitcases and some old cinema seating and fired them out of a cannon to see where they land. This isn’t a criticism, it’s delightfully chaotic and conveys a sense of a bustling food market in some far eastern metropolis (I can’t speak to how authentic a sense this is, because I’m too poor to actually go and visit these places – Blackpool will have to do).

We were seated right at the back of the restaurant with a bit of a view into the kitchen, which was as steamy and hectic as you’d expect it to be on a busy Saturday – a cacophony of shouted orders, calls for service and the hissing and clattering of woks – and set about reviewing the menu.

Rather than simply providing posh takeaway in a restaurant setting, Wok Inn’s menu centres around a number of noodle bowl dishes that demonstrate a combination of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, and Malay influences, with a rainbow of incredible-sounding sides, extras and small plates. Spoilt for choice doesn’t even come close when you want every item on the menu. From bao buns to gyoza, fish cakes to wasabi peas, right up to the BBQ ribs that had Guardian food reviewer Jay Rayner so bewitched, everything on the menu demands your attention; there’s even the option of fried duck’s tongues and century eggs for the more adventurous diner. This was exactly the sort of thing I set out to find on my quest for an escape from dull and uninspired food choices.

It was a tragedy for my tastebuds that my appetite was absolutely shot to shit. The fragrant and steamy air that I would have inhaled in a single breath like some sort of Looney Tunes character on any other day felt stuffy and my still-tender stomach trembled at the prospect of such rich and flavoursome fare. I’m not knocking the Wok Inn for being too tasty and steamy, this was entirely a punishment on me for the activities of the night before, but I’d been waiting for this for weeks so was determined to power through it. As god as my witness, I was going to eat some donburi.

Wok Inn don’t do starters, as they state in their menu everything is served “street style”: brought out as soon as it is cooked, so we ordered everything together. I decided to be a better vegetarian than I had the night before and opted for the tofu and vegetables donburi rice bowl with a side of bang bang cauliflower. In fact it was donburi and ramen all round for the whole table. We had a Good Customer Service Moment as we checked whether a particular type of noodle was gluten-free (after some initial confusion we discovered it was) and in short order we were presented with an array of incredible looking food to dive into.

The donburi was served in a bowl mounted into a kind of wooden plinth, giving it a distinctly heavyweight feel, and was a showcase of colour and shape, with delicately carved vegetables and vibrant, fresh ingredients. The cauliflower looked light and crisp and smelled unbelievable.

It was as good as it looked. The donburi was rich and flavoursome, the rice and vegetables given depth by the tofu (I honestly wish I knew how to cook tofu like this) and the umami savouriness of the sauce (which was served in a miniature Chairman Mao cup which I coveted highly). The cauliflower was the perfect side dish, tangy and moreish, despite my current condition. Like a champ, I put away as much as I could, but I was ultimately defeated. A tragedy of Shakespearian proportions, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Leaving my companions to finish what I couldn’t a I decided to check out the other draw to the Wok Inn – the toilets. In a slightly different twist on the more traditionally understood history of dicks on display in toilets in Blackpool, the decor in the dimly-lit loos in Wok Inn consists of an entire wall of prints from what I assume is the Kama Sutra, explicitly demonstrating a variety of sexual positions, and a cabinet displaying what can only be described as a massive penis bedecked with smaller penises. The handy explainer posted above it tells us that this is a symbol from a traditional Asian fertility festival and not just, y’know… a big knob in a glass box. It’s a novel spin on the humble toilet, but it’s kind of perfect for Blackpool.

Fortunately, the rest of the guys had a better showing and every other bowl was just about finished on my return. Despite my own gastronomical failings, I couldn’t recommend this place enough: for food, decor, atmosphere, if you’re looking for something different to the normal run of Chinese restaurants, you can’t go wrong here. Just don’t go hungover.

Wok Inn is at 118 North Promenade. Walk ins only. Find their website here.

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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    A hungry guy in search of tasty treats across the Fylde Coast. Additional spicy opinions are also available.

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