Chinese restaurants come in two different sizes; authentic and western. The latter sports stereotypical dishes like sweet and sour pork, ‘crispy seaweed’ and roast duck, while the former serves more obscure options. Finding actual Chinese cuisine in the UK’s culinary capital is difficult, but certainly not impossible.
Obviously everyone has their preference. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the ‘fake’ version made popular in Chinatowns across the world. Anyone suggesting it’s not worthy food is kidding themselves. Food evolves with time and while they’re two contrasting cuisines, each is equally delicious.
If you’re ever in the City of London (the Square Mile / financial district of London) and peckish for the most popular of Asian foods, two choices deliver consistently excellent food, service and price.
I believe if you’re the only Westerner in a Chinese establishment, even in England, then you’re on the right track. Both Eat & Drink Chinese Restaurant and Sichuan Folk are examples of this rule.
The Western Chinese – Eat & Drink Chinese Restaurant
Discovering it was an accident. In fact, unless you know it’s there you could walk past the same doorway every day, never realising there’s a treasure trove of deliciousness waiting beyond the foyer.
Down a murky alleyway, a short distance from Liverpool Street station, lies Eat & Drink Chinese Restaurant; an unimposing, seemingly rundown restaurant with the most unimaginative name in catering.
Walking in the door, a giant pink fish greets you; next, the owner – a curt, yet welcoming man. Hurried to a table and left with a huge menu, everything on it (or at least the thirty dishes I’ve sampled) are fantastic in their own way.
What To Eat
The service is great – attentive, extremely quick and helpful with dish recommendations. There’s nothing particularly adventurous a la carte, but Eat & Drink Chinese Restaurant does a brilliant job at the staple dishes.
If there are two of you three dishes are enough, supported by a portion of egg-fried rice each. My personal recommendations include:
- Crispy Spicy Beef
- Roast Duck
- Lemon Chicken
- Any prawn choice
- Anything off the Hot & Sizzling section of the menu
The best thing about Eat & Drink Chinese Restaurant is the swiftness of the fresh, piping hot food. Neither is it particularly expensive. If you stick to the three dish sharing choice, you’re looking at £20 a head, including a drink.
Eat & Drink – 11 Artillery Passage, London, E1 7LJ
The Chinese Chinese – Sichuan Folk
Sichuan Folk is found on an offshoot of the famous Brick Lane. Like the above, it’s equally unimposing. It’s fair to say it lacks any grandeur, instead preferring to let the food do the talking.
I can safely say Sichuan Folk is one of the best service-centric places I’ve experienced in London. Look for the owner, a glasses-wearing man with a killer sense of humour. If he’s not your waiter, ask for him. I’ve been multiple times now and every time I’ve asked him what to recommend.
We always joke I should write down what I order, but I trust him to come up with a carefully thought out spread. Sichuan food is all about spicy meets cool; a careful blending of flavours, heat and textures delivered across the entire meal.
It’s as authentic as they come – pigs trotters, twice cooked pork (definitely order it), odd fungi and Chinese deserts. The prawns – God, the prawns! Have the prawns. They’re some of the best I’ve in the UK, if not the best.
Everything’s cooked to perfection and while more expensive that Eat & Drink Chinese Restaurant, Sichuan Folk is worth every penny. It’s not outlandishly priced, but nor should you expect fine dining.
Sichuan Folk, Hanbury Street, London, E1 6QR
Feel free to share your own favourite Chinese restaurants in the comments below.