The Nanfang / Blog


A Dongguan nightlife institution

Posted: 10/18/2012 7:00 am

There’s a lot of chatter about One for the Road in Dongguan.  It’s fair to say the venue has earned a strong reputation for serving up American-sized portions of food and cold beer. The Nanfang has visited the venue a couple of times and sampled the fare, so it’s time to put aside the hearsay and rumours and examine the place on its merits.  What we found is that while the bar hits many more times than it misses, it does have some drawbacks.

First up, the menu.  I think any bar anywhere in China would be hard pressed to compete with One for the Road on the sheer comprehensiveness of its menu.  It’s not uncommon for people to sit down and spend several minutes with the menu booklet, and we were no exception.

The menu is divided up into sections, with a few starters on offer (crab cakes, prawn cocktail, garlic bread, and the like), soups, and your regular selection of salads.  There are exactly 20 options for a “Main Course”, including everything from fish and chips to bangers and mash to lasagna, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, chicken kiev, cordon bleu, and schnitzel.

The next page offers up “from the grill”, which includes steaks, pork chops, lamb cutlets, roast chicken, spare ribs (huge), and more.  This is before the pages offering hamburgers, pies, stews, and side order selections.  There isn’t enough time (or space) to list out everything, but suffice to say if you can’t find something you like on this menu, then perhaps you just aren’t hungry.

The concern with restaurants that serve up so much grub is that quality might suffer, and that might be the case here.  We ordered a caesar salad, which was far from authentic but still not bad by standards in China.  (Put it this way, we’ve had worse, like the one time a ‘caesar salad’ in Yangshuo consisted of shredded carrots and celery with thousand island dressing).

The macaroni and cheese is one pile of pure carbs.  A tray-sized plate with a mound of creamy mac and cheese on one half, and a mountain of mashed potatoes on the other.  Coupled with the requisite pint of beer, this will have you in a food coma in no time.  Mac and cheese was tasty, but you might want to order a few veggie dishes on the side (the coleslaw is pretty good) if you’re digging into this one.

We also tried the crab cakes and beef lasagna (OFTR also offers a vegetarian option).  The crab cakes were more like crab balls, and the portion was generous.  They were crispy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside, with a run-of-the-mill sweet and sour dip as an accompaniment.

Crab cakes could’ve been a meal unto themselves…

The lasagna didn’t show up until almost 45 minutes after we initially ordered, and wasn’t quite what we expected.  It was baked and served in a bowl, rather than as a slide of lasagna on a plate.  It was piping hot, but was missing something; it was a very basic lasagna without any kick or spice or personality.

Could’ve been better

As for other dishes, people raved about the bangers and mash.  We also tried the ribs on a previous visit, and they were tasty.

So what’s the drawback? Well, service, for starters.  On several visits, service was sporadic at best.  If the place is full (which it often is), it could take a while to get a server to pay attention to you, and even longer to actually get your food.  When we visited recently, we took an empty table and waited more than 10 minutes before somebody even noticed we were there — and even then, it was because we shouted “fuwuyuan!” to get some service.

The menu might be a little too extensive, as some dishes aren’t quite up to snuff.  OFTR could easily drop a few dishes that it doesn’t make well (like our lasagna) to ensure every item on the menu is top notch.

Also, we were recently there during an F1 race, and it seemed whoever was in charge of entertainment couldn’t figure out whether the audio on the race should be turned up, or music should be played.  It alternated annoyingly between the two a few times before racing fans finally won out.

Finally, smoking seems to be allowed inside, which is great for those who like to light up and not-so-great for everybody else.  The decision to allow smoking inside is probably related to the clientele, which consists of real died-in-the-wool pub-going expats, many of whom smoke.  But considering OFTR has an outdoor seating area, allowing smoking inside is somewhat questionable.

Now, about that clientele: the bar definitely has its regulars.  If you come more than twice, you’ll notice familiar faces sitting around the long horseshoe shaped bar or playing pool at one of the two tables.  It’s these regulars – plus the beer and extensive pub grub menu – that has turned OFTR into an institution.

If you’re looking for gourmet food, a romantic night out, or a quiet glass of wine, you’ll be sorely disappointed here.  But for a greasy hangover-fixing brunch, burger, or pile of mashed potatoes with beer and buddies, you can’t go wrong — just know you’ll probably have to wait a while to fill your tummy.

Click here to see the address, map, and contact information for One for the Road.

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  • American Guy

    I’ve got to say that you are correct about a few points, but I’d disagree with a few others. I do go there a decent amount, but also frequent other places around Dongcheng.

    Let me tell you, the first time I went to One for the Road, I wasn’t very happy with the service, but the food was fine. HOWEVER, since that time, I have noticed efforts by the management to improve the place at every step.

    I agree that the food can come out slow at times, but when there are that many people at one restaurant/bar, very few restaurants are going to beat their timing today. Before they upgraded with the second floor the waits were not good at all, but today, I wouldn’t consider them poor at all, in fact many items come out quickly.

    The staff is good+. Although not great, they are better than most others. If they know you, they seem to take better of care of you.

    I agree some of the salads aren’t so authentic (Like the Caesar you mentioned), but try the Chef or Tyburn salad and you’ll be mighty pleased. The ingredients are all still high quality, I think.

    The Macaroni and Cheese that you mention is one of my favorites! It is actually the BEST macaroni and cheese I have ever eaten! I have had it at least 5 times, and will have it again! Yes, it’s huge, and full of carbs, but ohhh, the flavors are there!

    I also would say that your final paragraph seems out of place with One for the Road. Yes, the food isn’t “Gourmet” per se, but the quality of ingredients and meals is many steps above just about any other place in Dongguan (or all of China for that matter.). It is not a burger joint, and certainly not a “greasy-spoon” type restaurant. Do you know that they offer low-oil frying? How about this. I will give you a few items to eat next time(s) you go in. You will think a bit differently about the quality. There is nothing like this place in China (I travel throughout China often on business, so I know what I’m talking about with regards to other expat bars/restaurants.), and I’m glad I live near it.

    I recommend:
    Chicken Cordon Bleu (I feel it’s the best value on the menu!)
    Spagetti Bolognaise
    Lyonnaise Meatballs
    Chicken or Beef tacos
    ANY of the pies!
    the CURRY’S are AWESOME!
    any of the Kebabs
    ANY soup!
    Toad in the Hole
    Get something fried using the low-cal frier. It’s great!

    I haven’t even mentioned the beers on tap, wine, or assorted spirits. You will get beers on tap here that are nowhere else in Asia! That’s cool! Prices are a bit steep, but not overly steep for the experience.

  • Jason Cakebread

    I see Nanfang are doing the normal by slating a Bar/Restaurant that doesn’t advertise with them.
    Many thanks for giving such a poor write-up.

    Thank you American Guy for setting them straight!

  • Gee

    WOW Nanfeng what a totally bias review.

    I find this completely laughable; you start your review by saying

    “So it’s time to put aside the hearsay and rumors and examine the place on its merits”

    Well everything you have said about their menu could be said about any western style bar/restaurant in any country in the world.

    It truly appears you are just trying to sound negative about everything and put a black mark on your entire review.

    You say “The macaroni and cheese is one pile of pure carbs.”

    This just comes across as negative, but as anyone knows full well, ALL MAC AND CHEESE in any restaurant is a pile of carbs.

    Next you talk about

    “ If the place is full (which it often is), it could take a while to get a server to pay attention to you “

    where do you think you are, it’s a bar/restaurant, So OF COURSE they do not have a fancy host on the door waiting to sit you, what kind of bar anywhere in the world do you NOT have to wave at service staff WHEN IT IS BUSY. It’s like saying the service is bad if you go into a MacDonald’s on a Saturday afternoon and you have to que for 10 minutes.

    Continuing, you rattle on about SMOKING …. OMG,

    You SAID ”Finally, smoking seems to be allowed inside, which is great for those who like to light up and not-so-great for everybody else. The decision to allow smoking inside is probably related to the clientele, which consists of real died-in-the-wool pub-going expats, many of whom smoke. But considering OFTR has an outdoor seating area, allowing smoking inside is somewhat questionable.”

    Firstly, again where do you think you are? Your staffs have been in China for ages so you know damm well that in China completely non-smoking venues are still almost unheard of.

    Secondly, and this is more to the point, if you had bothered to do your home work, you would know that One for the Road has a COMPLETELY NON SMOKING second Floor, There are signs up every where saying just that, and also it is written in all their advertizing.

    You finish by saying,

    “If you’re looking for gourmet food, a romantic night out, or a quiet glass of wine, you’ll be sorely disappointed here.”

    Well again, the entire second floor is dedicated to a quiet relaxed and intimate atmosphere, away from the downstairs BAR. Which AGAIN !! is totally NON-SMOKING.

    I have lived in Dongguan for many years and I know all the long term expats here, of whom I am lucky enough to call my friends, so I get very cranky when anyone openly disrespects someone or somewhere with no merit.

    Please NanFang If you want to review then WRITE a proper review, do your research and then get your facts correct.


  • Stu

    Dear Editor

    Having previously lived and worked in Dongguan I have been to One For the Road on many an occasion and on the very few of those occasions that anything did not run like clock work or I was dissatisfied for my experience in there establishment, the owner still managed to ensure I left happy with his ability to address and fix issues flexibly and efficiently.

    Due to this care, commitment and exceptional quality of service and product given by them I have, over nearly 6 years, advised a wide social diversity of friends, clients, suppliers and colleagues that they should stop in at One For the Road if they are in Dongguan.

    I have heard nothing but extremely positive comments from all; smokers and non -smokers, BBQ enthusiasts and vegetarians, people going for drinks with friends, colleagues and clients, people going for a romantic dinners and not to mention mums and dads wanting to take their children somewhere they could be entertained while they were able to enjoy each others company and that of their friends.

    This article is the first negative piece I have seen about OFTR and where you have been occasionally complimentary above, there is an overriding sense that you are not being objective and your compliments are underhanded barbs.

    Perhaps you were frightfully unlucky when you went there but in my mind and where my word of mouth goes OFTR should be seen for what it is; an oasis of quality, reliability and a rip roaring good time. It is a credit to the city of Dongguan when people go back to their homes and talk about the great time they enjoyed on their trip to China because the monotony of work was broken by good times, good people and good fare.

  • Hike Sr

    I also can’t believe this review, especially criticizing Mac and cheese for having too many carbs, that’s like complaining the ocean has too much water!! Also complaining that people are smoking in china, if you wanted non smoking, sit in the non smoking section (second floor) One for the road may not serve food the fastest, but I know everything is made fresh and the same everytime, while they may not have the healthiest food (I have never been to a healthy English Pub) the food is always served hot and while not fine dining, the food is good. They also do have many healthy dishes if you understand food enough not to expect healthy macaroni cheese. The tyburn salad is especially good and unique.
    The staff is tremendous, go there a few times and they will quickly learn your name and your drink. My 2.5 year old son likes going there perhaps more than me as the staff will play with him and they have the bouncey castle, but it is not overrun by kids, as all the toys are positioned well. The staff will do everything they can to please
    I hope whoever did this review reports to somebody who will really review the skill of the reviewer, the photos are especially poor also. Is there a website that reviews critics?

  • Umesh Mirchandani

    You guys must have sent some dumbass fresh out of the boat looney to write out that review, i myself do not live in Dongguan but do make regular trips down south and have never had any issues with the staff and food there, it is a pub and not a gourmet restaurant, and like the rest of the reviews here, they do state that smoking is not allowed on the 2nd floor, what kind of a dipbrain did you send to do the write up? Mac and cheese saturated with cals? every sane person in the world maybe apart from the twat you sent knows is not exactly the healthiest grub in the world.

    Get your facts right and send somebody with half a brain there before you come up with such utter nonsense.

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  • Another American Guy

    I had a tenderloin the other night. I ordered it medium rare. The only way it could have been cooked any better was if it came off my own grill at home. Try finding that at any other restaurant in China, let alone Dong Guan. I will happily wait the extra time for quality food made from scratch. As a nonsmoker, I happily enjoyed this delicious meal up stairs in the entirely smoke free second floor.

  • Ron

    Well, what can I say, if you do get sued, you can only blame yourselves for writing such crass crap…I agree with all the comments added on here, and to end your little charade by “But for a greasy hangover-fixing brunch, burger, or pile of mashed potatoes with beer and buddies, you can’t go wrong”…That’s just nasty and wrong…If reviewing, send someone who knows and works in the F&B and hospitality industry (and if they do already, they should be deported immediately) not the incompetent oaf that you sent on that trip…not only do you deserve to be sued, a slap across your ‘chops’ would probably taste better…

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  • Dongguaner

    I found the review to be fair. To the offended “frecuent visitors”: Don’t be so sensitive, and be a but more humble. Otherwise, you risk sounding like thirteen year old girls, angry that they got the Teacher Barbie instead of Dentist Barbie for Christmas.

  • TOM


    • Umesh Mirchandani

      I see you being the Tool and crying Nancy there Tom? or is that your real name! As Homer Simpson would say “DUH” !!!

  • English Guy

    Been here loads of times. Even with my vegetarian friends… everyone has a great meal.

    I re read this review a few times and don’t find it ‘sue’ worthy, just a little sarky which is acceptable in my book.

    Without getting personal Jason is not my favourite person nor someone I would like to look at.

  • LBShangers

    Wow what a bunch of whiney bitches. The review seemed pretty fair to me. Don’t forget something; THIS IS CHINA. It’s not easy to set up and run a bar/restaurant/anything without the usual bad days. I’m sure the place is fine- my experience is when you see a huge western menu in China, order the safe bet entrees and don’t ever be surprised if you get a server who is brand new or just kind of brain-dead. Sheesh lighten up.

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