Thursday 19 March 2015

The Chinese Cricket Club

You don't get much Chinese food on this website, and I'm sorry about that.  You see, the thing is that, growing up, my folks never really enjoyed it and so I never really got used to eating it.  They were always put off by cheap Chinese takeaways – greasy, gloopy, overly sweetened and packed with monosodium glutamate.  Not ideal.

As with almost all things food related in London, we have moved on a long way since then.  I'm trying to ease my way back in to a cuisine I know virtually nothing about.  So when a friend offered to take me out for dinner and suggested Chinese, I readily agreed.

The Chinese Cricket Club is, I am happy to say, a relatively standard Chinese restaurant.  There's not anything about it that's fancy or over-the-top, like Hutong in the Shard, or the Michelin-ed types like Hakkasan or Yauatcha.  This is standard Chinese restraunteering – with the one exception to the places we'd visit when I was a kid in that it is actually good.

Ravi guided me through the meal, ordering for the pair of us.  We started with dim sum – which, I know, is not an evening dish in China, but then we're not in China, we're in Blackfriars.  

We started with a platter and they are as follows: scallop siu mai (centre, yellow cases topped with orange roe), har gau (white balls), chicken and spinach dumplings (green cases, white insides, top and bottom of basket) and duck dumplings (orange-brown cases, left and right of basket).

Would you believe that this was the first ever dim sum I have had?  It is, actual fact.  I went to Hong Kong a few years ago to visit a friend who had been posted there.  Whilst out there I resolved to go to a dim sum restaurant.  So booked one just before I left – not just any old joint either, a place that had been recommended to me as the best place for dim sum on the island.  My friend and I turned up only to find that they were not serving dim sum because it was night time.  That's how I came to know that dim sum is strictly not an evening thing.

Regardless of when you're meant to eat them, these were lovely.  Served with spicy and sweet sauces, I found they worked almost best on their own, allowing the fresh, clean, subtle flavours to come out properly.

Scallop siu mai.

Chicken and spinach dumpling.

We also had some special king crab steamed dumplings, which Ravi ordered knowing my love of crab.

These were awesome.  Also, one of the nice – and reassuring – things about the restaurant is that, when they came to the table, the waiter instantly recognised that they were overdone and whipped them away, only to come back with freshly made, perfectly cooked examples a little later.  Now, of course, I would rather they were done right the first time, sure – bit it's nice to know that even the wait staff know what they’re about.

For mains we shared five hour braised pork belly and steamed sea bass.  An eclectic mix, but good to have a range.

The pork was divine – soft, melt in the mouth, with a delicious sticky-sweet Chinese marinade.

The sea bass was equally excellent albeit completely different.  It was served with a sharp soy sauce, it was a delightfully balanced dish that felt fresh and light, without losing any of its flavour.

Ravi uses The Chinese Cricket Club as an everyman joint – it's as good for taking out a client as it is for popping out for a meal when working late.  With food this dependable, I can see why.

- GrubsterBoy -

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