For the untrained tongue, London's Chinese restaurant scene can be a nightmare to navigate so stay safe with a trip to Silk Road. Always reliable and buzzing, this unassuming Camberwell restaurant with plain interiors serves full flavoured broths, hand-pulled noodles, lamb skewers and dumplings from the Xinjiang province of China. The only restaurant in London specialising in this cuisine, which counts the Middle East as a direct culinary influence, you can bet your bottom dollar you're in for some flavours.
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Barshu offers us Chinese food from the Sichuan province in central China which has much stronger fiery and sour flavours than the Cantonese style found in many London restaurants. The dark wood interiors and red lanterns are pretty much what you’d expect from an upmarket Chinese but the liberal use of chillies and lip-tingling Sichuan pepper certainly isn't. Flavours pass through umami, sweet, sour, and fiery spice all at once and textures go from crunchy to glutinous. If you're here, you need to commit and dive into Northern Sichuan Pea Jelly - strips of peastarch jelly - in a sauce made from black beans, chilli oil and vinegar. You won't be disappointed. Not wild enough? The husband and wide tripe then. We would recommend a side of rice or Chinese tea to give your mouth a rest. It may be a little pricey but if you order from the street food/snack part of the menu you can get some tasty value in the form of noodle soups.
Bull In A China Shop
We know that you like it raucous and all that, but you also like it refined sometimes, don't you? Bull in a China shop is a unique bar and restaurant - and popular Tinder hotspot - that finds a quirky English charm combining with exotic Asian influence, reflecting the half-English/half-Chinese origins of the owners. Their whiskeys are the main talking point; they've got over 100 of them with plenty of rare, exotic and sometimes eye-wateringly expensive Japanese and Scottish tipples that people travel far and wide for. But don't let that intimidate you — the staff are very approachable if you're not an expert. As far as food goes the Rotisserie chicken, brined with ginger, marinated overnight in Asian yoghurt with a Nikka whisky glaze is a big seller
The Laughing Heart
Bougie spots in Hackney are plentiful, and the Laughing Heart is another of them: part wine bar, part restaurant and part off-licence. In a simple, dimly lit space along Hackney Road, it's the wine that appears to be the main focus here although with chefs hailing from Chiltern Firehouse, P Franco and Elliot's in Borough Market, the food is definitely not an after thought. The prices are kinda high for the portion sizes - as might be expected in London in these times - so we'd suggest coming here if it's a special thing/ you're not actually that hungry. With the changing menu featuring things like Dorset crab, english peas & avocado and middle white pork & fennel dumplings, this is good food and it's matched by the wine list. It also is open pretty late, making it a suitable haunt for a nightcap.
Mike and Ollie - the chaps behind Queen's - first made a name for themselves selling stuffed flatbreads down Brockley Market. They're now the proud owners of this sweet little restaurant in Camberwell. Inside the place is simple with lots of white, plywood and plants plus hand drawn illustrations over the walls. Of more importance is what's making its way out of the kitchen - if it's on the menu, go for something like the roast beetroot and feta manti (Turkish dumplings), colourful chopped salad, lamb chops with chargrilled aubergine, deer loin with kale and walnuts. Pair that with organic wine and locally brewed beers and you've got yourself a mighty fine neighbourhood restaurant.