Everything about the place feels cool but not in a try hard way. There are two small “dining rooms” at the front and out the back with a small bar in the middle. It felt like we were perching on stalls in the back of some Chinese Granny’s flat. I wasn’t sure I would but I totally loved it.
I’ll start with the dish I didn’t like, and that isn’t so much because they made it badly, I just don’t think century egg (that’s duck eggs preserved in clay for up to a couple of months) is really my thing. Here, the eggs had been lightly deep fried and served in lettuce (£5.50). The texture is just a bit odd.
But the rest was ruddy lovely. Old Beijing lamb skewers (£8.50) were crispy and fatty which is exactly when lamb is at its best. Grilled aubergine (£6) was sweet and mushy then topped with crushed peanuts to add texture. A chicken carcass (£2.70) was the funnest thing I’ve eaten in yonks. It might not sound so great but picking off bits of flesh, which were heavily rubbed with herbs, was a real delight. Great with a beer.
Ma La lobster on bing (£19) was a pancake, like a roti, topped with chunks of lobster in a sweet and nutty sauce, which was on the right side of spicy. Squares of super fatty lamb belly (£12.50) might have been too much on their own, but ordered alongside a smashed cucumber (£4) – a real must – it was the perfect balance of texture and flavour.
Again, the trice cooked pork belly (£12.50) was another fatty one but if you get the crunchy courgette with raspberry vinaigrette (£3.20) – who knew courgette and raspberry were so good together? – you end up with something quite marvellous. Rice (£2) and mantou buns (£1.80) were great tools to soak up all the sauces.
Puddings weren’t bad just not quite as exciting as the stuff before. Peachy panna cotta (£6.50) was a little overpowered by the sumac and green pepper and the cheesecake (£5) could have been sweeter – both however got eaten.
The most important thing about Chinese Laundry is it’s lots of fun. In a city where restaurants are spending millions on Damien Hirsts and string quintets, it’s nice to go to a cramped restaurant on Upper Street, sit next to a toilet and eat chicken carcass. Chinese Laundry is definitely for me.
We dined as guests of the restaurant.