Food: Empress of Sichaun

On Sunday, after the wonderful Damnation of Faust (it was about 3 hours – 3-6pm) we wandered down to London’s vibrant Chinatown (I don’t usually use the word “vibrant”, but Chinatown deserves it).

We did some pre-dinner window-shopping, then looked for a restaurant. We had nothing specific in mind, just that we wanted something good.

We ended up outside the door of the Empress of Sichaun, and quickly decided we wanted in. They had chilli peppercorn squid – that was enough for us (also, they did that hotpot I was talking about, but we weren’t in the mood for that).

I was on menu choosing duty – so, a bottle of red (a Rioja), and some cold starters. I went for “Bang Bang Chicken” (which was like a cold chicken satay – a LOT nicer than it sounds) and thinly sliced pork in garlic and chilli sauce. Both were excellent – I could smell the garlic before it even arrived at the table. My only criticism was that there were some bits of gristle in the chicken, which were a bit gross. Nevermind.

Oh, and I was so ravenous that I forgot to take a photo of those. Oops. On to mains!

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Our waitress asked if we wanted a short break before commencing mains, and I chose to take her up on that. We had ordered quite a few dishes.

I went for the chilli peppercorn squid (of course! Always a winner), as well as double cooked pork belly slices in garlic and chilli (garlic much? Oh well – cleans the blood and all that). We also had some broccoli steamed with garlic (seriously) and some steamed rice.

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Ben struggles with chopsticks.

All dishes involved were amazing – the squid, as always, stole the show. I want to know how to cook squid like that – it’s so MEATY. The pork belly slices were like the starter, in that they were cut incredibly thin, giving a bacon-like mouthfeel. No bad thing. Tonnes of garlic on the broccoli, and everything was the right level of spicy. Very clean flavours, beautifully presented, generous portion sizes.

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We ate everything, except a couple of broccoli florets and a handful of rice (there is always too much rice).

Then, straining, we were presented with some deep-fried pumpkin cakes, arranged in a stack, with a candle on top. After a rousing round of “Happy Birthday” (adorable), we managed one of the scotch-pancake sized treats each, and took the other three home. I think Ben got a photo on his phone, so I’ll upload that later on.

EDIT: here you go!

I popped a hefty tip on the bill. The Empress of Sichaun comes with huge recommendations. Get ye to Chinatown.

The Empress of Sichaun is at 6 Lisle Street, WC2H 7BG, in London’s Chinatown.

tel: 020 7734 8128

Two courses, with wine and followed by Chinese tea (and we certainly didn’t go hungry), about £40 a head

Tell them I sent you.

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