It all started with a call from our friend Subroto, an eccentric Indonesian-Chinese, who for many years wandered China in search of the perfect deal, often with a degree of success. As everybody knows, success in business and a keen eye for a satisfying meal often go hand-in-hand; Subroto is living proof of the truth of this maxim. His life has been a constant search for the perfect meal accompanied by the perfect wine.

I not take you to an expensive rrrrestaurrrant this time. I take you somewhere verrrry cheap but verrry good.


We set out in a cab with Subroto guiding the way. Now you must understand that Subroto’s Chinese, although excellent and extremely fluent, is heavily coloured with the accents of his native Jakarta. So when we thought we heard him directing the driver to the Sewage Works, we tended to dismiss this as a trick of our ears. But sure enough, after weaving our way through the streets of Eastern Shenzhen, we arrived at… the Sewage Works.

It appears that in this case Reform and Opening has taken the form of the Canteen of the Sewage Works becoming a public restaurant. Not that on first sight it looks like anything other than a canteen. Plain white walls round tables with simple tablecloths and nothing elaborate. But it is immaculately clean. We quickly applied the acid test by checking out the toilets. They were old, but probably the cleanest toilets we’ve seen in Shenzhen. Excellent!

By the time we got back, Subroto had already ordered the dishes that appeared rapidly on the table. The food is Hakka and quite local. The maitre d’ tells us that everything is organic and local produce; even the beans are local peasant beans, not the northern varieties bred for machine harvesting.

At our first sip of the broth of the Pork Soup we knew that we were onto a good thing. Actually we thought we’d died and gone to Heaven. It was delicate, lacking the fat that often floats on this type of broth and finely flavoured with coriander and other herbs. So good that there was dead silence broken only by Subroto’s slurping. This was followed by a Hakka speciality, stuffed bean curd, made, we were told, fresh daily from the local beans and stuffed with minced pork and garlic shoots. Then, a Hakka chicken. Once again this was not a battery hen but a local species, beautifully tender, and not a gram of fat. The dish was very reminiscent of Hainan chicken except the sauce was lighter on ginger and much heavier on garlic. Superb. By this stage Subroto was waxing eloquent on the organic nature of the food which, given where we were, was disturbing. Next, a dish of turnip greens with salted fish, sharp, stringy. Excellent. The only slightly jarring note was a freshwater fish which would probably have stood out in any other company but which in the circumstances was a bit overpowered by the excellence of the rest of the meal

All of this for the absurdly reasonable sum of $180.

Hong Kongers have an ambiguous attitude to Shenzhen. It’s just a bit too confusing for them and they always suspect that some disaster is about to befall them on the streets. But on one thing they are all prepared to be positive. Shenzhen is the place to go if you’re going to play golf. And increasingly golfers from all over the world are agreeing with this assessment. Shenzhen was one of the first places in China to build golf courses and encourage a golf culture amongst its people. Since the first golf course in Shenzhen was opened in 1985, several of the world’s most interesting golf courses, including the world’s biggest, have been built in the city.


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