Empress of Sichuan, 6 Lisle Street, WC2H 7BG and where to eat in Chinatown

1. Where to eat in Chinatown

(Courtesy of me and soon-to-be guest blogger and former China resident/tour guide Pipalipa)

  • Best dim sum – Golden Dragon (also best place to go when a little bit tipsy late at night)
  • Best cheap and lovely food (Taiwanese) – Leong’s Legend
  • Best koi carp, bridge, spinny tables, rice wine and “ooh” factor (Cantonese) – Imperial China

2.  The Empress of Sichuan

The Empress of Sichuan is the posh older sister to the wonderful Leong’s Legend, where Pipalipa made us eat a fabulous and cheap meal of bowls of beer, duck’s tongues (not good), 1000 year old egg (I liked mucho, still gives El G nightmares) and assorted pork dishes.

I’d read about The Empress of Sichuan on the London Foodie’s wonderful blog, and on Urban Junkies’ Chinatown guide – and as Pipa loves Chinese food it seemed like the perfect place for a celebratory meal with her and our fellow hockey friend Sweedy on Wednesday night. 

I was in China for a short time at the start of my round the world trip and had a spicy Sichuan meal which blew my socks off.  Sichuanese food is famously hot and spicy, and I was worried because I break into a sweat with anything hotter than a korma.  But here, the spicing is so delicate and tangy that I needn’t have worried.

The menu was great – really interesting and varied, so we’ll definitely come back to try more (especially the fish).  And apparently the picture on the front of the menu is Emei mountain in Sichuan, Pipa’s favourite place in China.

Had Pipa had her way, I suspect there would have been more 1000 year old eggs (black preserved egg), but instead we settled on a number of “normal” dishes with a couple of more adventurous choices.  Sadly, the taking of food photos does not sit well with wine-drinking and gossiping so I forgot to take photos of all the food – brownie points to them for serving such a lovely cheap Chenin Blanc.

To start, we ate the pork ribs with dried chili and sesame; grilled lamb skewers Sichuan style and marinated jellyfish with chicken and cucumber in hot and sour sauce.  The pork ribs were cold but tasty if a little tough, and the lamb skewers were my favourite – really tender and juicy.  I would avoid the marinated jellyfish – wobbly on the outside, crunchy and grisly on the inside, even imagining it was a vegetable didn’t help.  But the tangy Sichuanese hot and sour sauce it came with was delicious and, as Pip pointed out, the jellyfish was really just a (wibbly) vehicle for it.

Pork ribs with dried chili and sesame

 Jellyfish – what is it good for?  Absolutely nothin’

For mains, we had spiced green beans with minced pork and preserved vegetables (this is not really a place for veggies, nor is China for that matter) which was delicate and with a lovely texture and probably our favourite dish; double-cooked pork belly with chili and onion which had a bacon-like consistency that I didn’t really like; and bear’s paw tofu braised with pork which lacked a bit of flavour and kick but had delicious wild crinkly mushrooms with it. 

Spiced green beans with minced pork and preserved vegetables

Double-cooked pork belly with chili and onion

All in all, the food was excellent and at £30 each for 1 starter, 1 main and 2/3 bottle of wine each it was pretty reasonable – definitely recommended if you are ever in Chinatown.

Mucky Pups

To celebrate the Food of Asia Festival, this e-flyer will get you 20% off food at the Empress of Sichuan, Leong’s Legend and Golden Harvest from now until 1 April (excluding 11-22 February). 

Empress of Sichuan on Urbanspoon

UPDATE: Please see comment from Mr Noodles below – I was quite wrong to say China wasn’t a great place for veggies.  I only spent 2 weeks there, in a very small part, and didn’t speak the language so that may have been the problem.  I imagine there is a whole world of vegitarian cuisine there that I didn’t ever encounter.  And I love pak choi.  Sorry Mr N.  Now, France, that’s a terrible place for veggies…:)

7 responses to “Empress of Sichuan, 6 Lisle Street, WC2H 7BG and where to eat in Chinatown

  1. I’m glad you liked it. A good review but I take slight issue with your comment “this is not really a place for veggies, nor is China for that matter”. E of S may not be veggie friendly but China itself is. There is a whole branch of buddhist vegan cuisine in China. I’m not saying there’s one of these restaurants on every corner but they’re more common than you might think. Rant over, I do like your blog !

    • I knew that might be controversial! I don’t know China at all – only spent 2 weeks in the South Eastern corner – Guangong and Guangxi. I was travelling with a veggie and I just knew that it was hard to explain that she could only eat vegetables, not with meat in it. It seemed like the concept of vegetarianism wasn’t that common. But China is huge, and wonderful, and I’m sure there are wonderful buddist vegan venues.

      Please excuse my generalisation and I’ll update accordingly!

      Best, Sasha @ The Happiness Project London

      ps. have you read River Town by Peter Hessler? loved that book: http://www.amazon.com/River-Town-Two-Years-Yangtze/dp/0060953748

  2. If you ever return to China, explain that you want “zhai cai” then they will realise that you are veggie.

  3. Hey Sasha, glad you made it to Empress and relieved that you enjoyed your meal there. It is bizarre but American in London has also posted a very positive review of this place (the 4th good review by bloggers), so I wonder what Time Out was going on about. Really agree to your restaurant suggestions in Chinatown too.

  4. Pingback: Leong’s Legends, 4 Macclesfield St, Chinatown, W1D 6AX | The Happiness Project London

  5. We had a wonderful evening at the Empress of Sichuan on friday. Seven of us were treated with such charm and humour and yet it was not intrusive, nothing was too much . We decided to leave the selection of our food to the waitress and she discussed our likes annd dislikes in great detail before deciding what to give us. The food was delicious and the wine very good and an extremely modest price. Thank you for such a pleasant evening.

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