Barshu

Why go here:

One of the only places in London offering traditional Sichuan food (from Southwest China), which happens to be known for its use of the famous and fiery Sichuan pepper.

What it looks like:

The restaurant is furnished with traditional Chinese wooden decorations including wall-to-floor engraved golden panels with dragon heads and adorned with multiple red lanterns. Be careful not to confuse it with the sister restaurant Ba-shan which is right across the street, also serves Sichuan food and has similar decor, only smaller and less popular (I did get it wrong the first time, by the way).

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The food:

Traditional Sichuan food includes spicy dishes only but the menu here has been adapted to cater to the British audience, so you can ask the waiter’s recommendations for the milder dishes if you have a lower tolerance for chillies. It helps that the menu includes photographs of all the dishes so you can opt for the dishes that look either the most appealing or the least spicy to you, although I would suggest you to be adventurous and go for the former!

I started with the Dan-Dan Noodles, a traditional Sichuan street food consisting of noodles served with minced pork, chilli oil and topped with spring onions and crushed peanuts., This was not only one of the tastiest but also one fo the cheapest dishes on the menu at only 4.50!

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Next came the mains. We had ordered the Gong Bao Chicken with Cashew Nuts, the Fish fragrant Pork Slivers and the Fish fragrant aubergines.

The ‘Fish fragrant’ dishes on the menu are some of the most traditional ones and I’d highly recommend you to order one. Don’t be put off by the name- there is no use of fish flavourings like fish sauce or anchovies! The term refers, instead, to the use of fragrant combinations of garlic, ginger, spring onions and pickled chillies that were used primarily in Sichuan cuisine when preparing fish to overpower the strong smell.

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Coming back to the dishes, the Fish fragrant Pork slivers was tongue tantalising. The flavours are vivid and vibrant but the chilli does give one quite the lip tingling sensation – so might be good to order a cocktail on the side!

The chicken and cashew nut dish was a classic done well and I was glad to see that there was no skimping on the use of the pricy nuts.

The aubergines in spite of being from the Fish fragrant section were less spicy. They came in a Morter & Pestle, so you could crush the garlic and spring onion a bit more and get a fresh release of flavours going right before you eat the dish! The vegetarians out there might be pleased to know that the aubergines were so well prepared, they’re almost tastier than the pork equivalent of the dish.

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Verdict:

This place is highly recommended for anyone who loves the flavours used in Chinese cuisine, wants to try something very authentic and different to the standard offerings of the Chinatown eateries and is willing to brave the Sichuan chillies!

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