CRISPY chilli beef. As far as my wife, Melissa, is concerned, this is the Holy Grail of Oriental cuisine.

Unfortunately, finding a dish that lives up to its crispy billing has proved extremely difficult, with most offering up a chewy concoction of batter and beef that isn’t particularly pleasant. Happily, though, our visit to Wrexham’s Sleepy Panda was memorable for the excellent – and remarkably crispy – chilli beef dish.

I’ll come back to that later though. We visited the Sleepy Panda on a very cold Tuesday evening when we fancied something fresh and fast, given that we were both starving hungry and didn’t want to keep the babysitter waiting. I’d always enjoyed our visits to the restaurant but, for one reason or another, we hadn’t been to the Sleepy Panda for a good few years.

Inside was exactly as I remembered it, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the restaurant’s banquet option – available Sunday to Thursday – was still only £14 for three courses, which made choosing our food simple.

The generous mixed starter arrived soon after we were seated at the table. It was piping hot and all the elements were tasty, particularly the prawn toast which had a really thick layer of seafood. Needless to say, we cleared our plates in no time.

The next course was the crispy aromatic duck – a real favourite of mine. The food arrived quickly but certainly didn’t disappoint. The duck had plenty of flavour, complemented by the cucumber, spring onion and hoisin sauce.

The portion was again generous, but still left enough room for the main course – Melissa’s crispy chilli beef and my pork fillet Cantonese style.

The pork dish featured a gloriously sweet, sticky sauce, with chunks of delicious onion and tender meat. Together with the egg fried rice – again a generous portion for two people – it was a perfect combination.

As for the beef, it was as crispy as any I’ve ever tasted and Melissa was also extremely happy. Given her crispy beef expertise, the dish comes highly recommended.

After the three courses, we had no room for dessert and headed back into the cold, impressed with the standard of food at the Sleepy Panda.

My only criticism would be the speed of service – if you wanted a relaxing meal out, you might find things a little bit rushed. As I said, though, it suited us and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the banquet menu – it represents excellent value for money.

The Bill
2 x banquet £14 each
Mixed starter
(Seaweed, satay chicken, prawn toast, spring rolls)
Crispy aromatic duck
Pork fillet Cantonese style
Crispy beef Peking style
Egg fried rice
1 x pint of Boddingtons
1 x glass of wine
1 x Diet Coke
Total £38.80