51 Pimlico Road London SW1W 8NE
Please don’t hate me for saying this, but I am not the biggest fan of Chinese food. I love …Rating:
Please don’t hate me for saying this, but I am not the biggest fan of Chinese food. I love Asian food, particularly Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian. But there is something about a lot of the Chinese I have tasted in the west and in Hong Kong that turns me off. I am sure there are many other cuisines coming out of China that I am happy to try and I do not close the door to that. But I just don’t like in general gooey, greasy, and not so spicy textures in my Asian food. Plus there is the whole MSG thing, which bothers me and also makes me look like a puffer fish the day after I eat it. But then I was told to try Hunan. This is probably the best Chinese food I have ever eaten, and let me explain why. Portions. This is “Tapas Chinese”, if you can imagine. And, no this is not following the tapas trend, this place has been here for a very long time. It is not trendy, which is part of its appeal. There are no huge plates of crispy noodles with duck that is meant for a whole family of six, but served for you plus one. Also, you don’t order. They ask you if you like spicy, or not, fish and meat, or not, and then they bring out a series of small dishes until you are full. The dishes are simple but exquisite. And each time I have gone, I have seen only a few that were the same so they are constantly updating and rotating. Its also great to be with a group of friends and want to share but don’t want the hassle of ordering and deciding. Plus it gives you a chance to try many different dishes without having to eat too much. Again, I love this place, and the reason is more than just the food, it’s the way its thought out.
I was lucky enough, one day, to meet the owner. I started chatting with him about my love for cooking and to my surprise he pulled me downstairs. We went through a tiny stairwell to a tiny basement kitchen with a pulley system that brings the piping hot food to the upstairs bar. It was fascinating to say the least. He was instructing me on how to make these delicious fried green beans tossed with garlic and chilli, one of their signature dishes. It is now a big dish of my own and I use it with all kinds of vegetables or small fishy things.
They serve a really tasty chicken noodle soup as soon as you walk in, with the most decadent and rich broth of all broths. Usually after this they give you a lettuce wrap with finely chopped vegetables with or without chicken. It is cute, messy, and very tasty. Also, if you like spicy, ask for their chili sauce, it is heaven. They do an absolutely awesome dish with shrimp, wrapped with a chive and served almost like a roll. Also there is spicy fried squid, crispy frog legs, and double cooked pork served out of plastic bag- sounds strange but it is soft and succulent and sublime. I once had a whole crab served towards the end of the meal with so much roe inside, I was about to keel over. If you stay long enough, and drink enough for that matter, they will bring out the lychee wine with some shot glasses, which is kind of like a Chinese limoncello. It is evil and delicious.
This place is very adventurous and fun, it has a great buzz and the food is always changing and challenging your palette and expectations. The décor is elegant and with a mild splash of cool Chinese antiques. It is family run and you can really see that in the way they treat their loyal customers. Make sure to call ahead and book, it gets very busy, even during the week.