Food House takes over from Cantonese stalwart Harbour City – a place where I’ve enjoyed some glorious dim sum classics many a Saturday afternoon as you do. They’re right on the edge of the main footfall of Gerard St, it’s name in Chinese is written in gold on a dark wood panel – you won’t miss it from the glossy dark-tiled steps you need to walk up to get into the restaurant. The food celebrates Sichuan cuisine so you’ll get some lip tingling, mouth numbing, oil slicked gloriousness and most probably ring sting the next morning – this sort of food is guaranteed some vigorous bowl movement which is healthy for you don’t you know.
We go for the red chilli oil noodles, one with a slow braise of lamb and one with melting beef beef £7.80. Both are coated in an adventurous amount of tongue tingling Sichuan pepper, fiery red chilli, jade green spring onion ends and an ASBO amounts of raw garlic. The bold and blistering mixture is designed to be mixed into the wide banded hand pulled noodles it sits on – the result is aromatic, salty and intense – this isn’t date night food, but a meal for people like who like brazen food or are sh*t drunk and need a shot of Sichuan adrenaline instead of a vodka livener.
We seek solace from the heat in a stir fry of peppers and the vibrant crunch lotus root £6.80, but we got quite the opposite as the murky green chilli packed big fished heat. At this point we had a proper bead on.
Pan fried dumplings £6.80 were slabby open ended affairs filled with pork just like the ones I had a X’ian Impression.
Then came skewers of chilli-cumin crusted chicken wings £4 for two, fresh chillis £3 for two and lamb skewers £10 for five. In the same vein as everything else, there was no subtlety here, it’s food that’s made for people with a robust tolerance to heat and don’t mind wiping sweat from their brows – it is some serious skewer action made for Tsing Tao.
The second time we came was to end the night after a day of drinking and eating mediocre Italian food in Cecconi’s.
The dry fried green beans with mince pork £11.80 are a Sichuan classic, a dish I first had at My Old Place – they became a staple part of my weekly diet for years for all of their umami majesty. These were a crime to the exemplar as they had enough salt in them to shock a cardiologist – we all found ourselves glugging Tsing Tao for a temporary reprieve.
Of course we had to go for red chilli noodles £7.80 – the lamb version is the way to go IMHO.
Skewer action seems to be compulsory fun here so “red willow lamb” (£12 for three) were ordered as were the chicken wings (£6 for three).
Spinach with peanuts £6.80 is a model Sichuan dish, it’s served cold with a refreshing hit of cheek puckering black vinegar. A stark contrast to the things ordered before, but a must for it’s cooling qualities.
Sweet and sour seabass £24.80 comes in an Essex fan shade of orange gone wrong. It’s actually a fish that has been expertedly dismantled; it’s flesh is scored so it blossoms when it hits the hot oil it’s fried in and is boosted in the same sauce you might get in your sweet and sour chicken. That’s a good thing of course as it cools your mouth from the angry, cumin crusted, hot oil laden dishes you can get here.
Hot oil lamb noodles – yes please! You may have gathered that this is a dish worth coming for.
When did I go? Nov 2018, March 2019, April 209
The damage: £20/40 per head depending on your appetite with drinks
The good: What’s really enjoyable about Food House is their ability to deliver aromatic, spicy and numbing fun to those who want some adventure on their palates for not a lot of money. It’s the sort of food that smacks your palate with flavour and brings lesser known Chinese dishes from Sichuan to our culinary culture.
The bad: There were some stinkers like the dried fried beans were so salty that they’d probably give you a restless night’s sleep chugging water full of weird dreams.
Would I go again? Yeah why not
Address: 48-36 Gerrard St, West End, London W1D 5QH