The smell of the Sichuan peppercorn is intoxicating and perfumes the City air as we walk by The Sichuan and purely by chance too. The restaurant doesn’t live on social media handles or advertise anywhere, so you’ll know about when you walk past and get your nostrils tickled or hear about it through good old fashioned word of mouth or a shove from Google. It’s a Chinese restaurant that specialises in the food from the province of Sichuan so expect numbing heat, rich black vinegar sauces with as many dried chillis and toasty wok-hei notes your tongue can take. They’ve been doing this since 2016 in between Moorgate and Old St so if your office is close by it’s a good time to be alive. Expect utilitarian function rather than thrills when it comes to the decor with wipe down garish laminate menus.
First of the dishes came the double cooked pork belly with Chinese mushrooms £10.80 which are slow braised in soy, sugar, Sichuan spices and a whole load of aromatics until the sauce becomes glossy, sticky and works wonders coating your lips.
For maximum soakage we get a side of Yanzhou fried rice £4.20, there’s no fireworks per se here, but validation that they can do your takeaway fried rice to a lukewarm standard. It just lacked the toasty wok-hei to add to the glory.
The fried green beans £9.50 is always a must order whenever I see it on the menu, there’s something about oil scorched French beans with anti-social amounts of garlic, umami minced pork, Sichuan chillis and the deep funk of fermented soy beans. When I do have them, there is a sweet debate in my head, a juxtaposition between MOP’s version vs the whole world’s. From my past review it’s obvious I have an affection for the ones at MOP as theirs is a riot of texture and flavour, it’s really good here too but not quite the same as it’s missing the vivid depth and oily lusciousness – but no less demolish-able and that’s the point.
Cumin beef £10.90 is popular dish where cumin powder, chillis and fragrant Sichuan peppercorns cling onto slinky pieces of beef and caramelised onions, there is a profound kick of umami and tongue numbing pleasure that’s dispatched in your mouth before you can get another chopstick full. Come here and order this.
For the second visit, we regrettably order the tepid sweet and sour spare ribs £9.50. They’re soft and slide off the bone and cloy the palate with a profound hit of hyperactivity caused by excessive consumption of sugar. I wouldn’t order them again for that reason.
We also get the dim sum platter £9.50 on impulse as choice can be presented as a de facto good thing in life. It’s clear though that dim sum isn’t their strong command as these har gow and siu mai were blunt objects. The point of good dumplings is a really flavoursome filling gilded with fantastic ingredients swaddled in elastic wrappers – they missed the point entirely and should be kept in the freezer where they came from.
We also get pork with green pepper £9.80, a virtuous interplay of fried slithers of caramelised pork belly, spring onions, black beans and shishito peppers. It’s a simple but genius dish, I found myself picking up all of the little pieces until the plate was clean.
Of course the fried green beans
House special fried rice £6, a meal in itself and is another execution of your high street Chinese fried rice with a good helping of chicken breast, green chilli and spring onions – this time it get’s a good colouring with soy sauce. There is always a time and a place, I think this was one of them, although I’d recommend plain steamed rice to soak up all of the Sichuan goodness.
If you like lifting then the dan dan noodles £5.50 are worth getting your chopsticks around. Ivory-tinged wheat noodles get a good splash of Sichuan hot oil-boosted sauce with spicy cumin peppered minced lamb – the green of pak choi break up the bowl of rust coloured fire. This one demands for you to hunker down and slurp – it’s a multiple napkin demolition.
Dumplings in red chilli oil £5.20 were slightly misshapen and came in a pool fragrant hot oils and flakes of chilli – we were asked to mix them till glossed in that fiery oil for maximum effect.
Cumin beef – yes sireeee!
Pork with green peppers again
Green beans £9.50
When did I go? Feb 2018, April 2018, Feb 2019
The damage: Expect to pay £25 per heard with a Tsing Tao
The good: Come here for the cumin beef, pork with green peppers and shimmering dan dan noodles – don’t miss the green beans either.
The bad: Dodge the stuff that’s made for people who don’t get Sichuan food like the dim sum platter, special rice and sweet ribs. You can get similar versions from your local take-away. My small gripe with the red cooked pork is that it tasted docile and lacked the thrills by comparison to some of the others I’ve had.
Would I go again? Why not
Address: 14 City Rd, London EC1Y 2AA