Alan Yau's 'other' chain attempt Cha Cha Moon could well be described as The Danny De Vito to Wagamammas Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's like a pop up restaurant in a municipal leisure centre, and I certainly don't mean that in a good way.
Stumbling round Soho after a number of drinks we'd singly failed to find anywhere available for food and I'd singly failed to remember quite how perfect Brasserie Zedel would have been at a time like this until it was way too late.
After umpteen false starts, we finally rolled into Cha Cha Moon, somewhere I remember as a reasonable if innocuous local lunch spot from my time working in the area. Not amazing, but not bad, and at 9pm on a Friday night it was somewhere, finally, that had space for us.
The whole experience isn't one I'll be repeating, a courtesy that the food didn't extend to me.
The 'concept' and execution are frankly both lazy. A selection of generically South East Asian dishes dropped indeterminently into seemingly random categories and served as ready (seconds after ordering or minutes after we'd finished in the case of one sorry starter).
Despite the presence of a small army of wok bothering chefs in the open kitchen, the whole operation had the stench of the microwave. Nicci Polo's seafood ho fun arrived, barely lukewarm, minutes after ordering, as if it'd been hanging around from a previous mis-order. Frosty's halfhearted bun noodles were a pale and forlorn imitation of an impossible to screw up staple.
My Crispy Duck and Noodles managed to be both flabby and dry, with almost no redeeming feature except quantity, though that merely extended the torture. The noodles served alongside were undercooked and coated in a coagulating salty brown sauce, like the bastard child of a BBQ Pot Noodle and an elastic band ball.
We shared a selection of small plates, squabbling over who would (dare) finish them off. The chilli squid managed to hit every level of wrongness and thick, doughy potstickers came stuffed with what I can only describe as budget brand sausage meat. The less said about the Sichuan red chilli oil wontons the better, resembling swamp dredged body parts and putting back the cause of regional Chinese cuisine by several years.
At £20 a head including a single acrid cocktail each this isn't cheap fare. Finally seeing sense and retreating to Bar Americain in Brasserie Zedel, I was roundly mocked for not bringing the party here first. They were right.
If it was an attempt to recreate the flyaway success of Wagamammas then God knows it fails, and badly, on so many levels. It has the feel of a chain being readied for rollout but 4 years after this one arrived it's clear that this plan has fallen by the wayside. What's not clear is why this one, surrounded by some of Soho's finest eateries, has not.