Pork Belly with Coriander

Chinese Cricket Club, New Bridge Street

Chinese Cricket Club, New Bridge Street – I think I have found my choice of Chinese restaurant in London. I am slightly embarrassed when people ask me to name my preferred Chinese restaurant. In concurrence with my ethnicity, it seems almost unbelievable to anyone that I do not have a favourite Chinese restaurant. It is London we are in and Chinese is definitely one of the nation’s favourite cuisines and yet I can hardly recommend one.

Let me state what my stereotypical conception of Chinese restaurants in London. Food is always oily with lots of MSG, which makes almost every dish taste the same. The sauce is so glutinous and gooey from the excessive cornflour that if the dish is left sitting longer the sauce turns rubbery and sets like jelly. Horrible! And being fortunate enough to be brought up in a family who adores food – cooking, baking, eating, criticizing – I have been privileged by some of the most delicious food at home and when eating out.

If you ask me the same question now, I can confidently say that it is the Chinese Cricket Club. Huh? I know, I know. It is not the typical name that one would be to expect a Chinese restaurant. I have to admit that I was not keen on the idea of Chinese food with such a name. Moreover, this place is embedded inside a hotel (City Crowne Plaza). The name does not  suggest it would be a typical or symbolic Chinese dinner. Chinese Cricket Club was named after the newly formed Chinese National Cricket team.

My pre-judgements were wrong! This place is GOOD. It is not an ordinary Chinese restaurant with an extensive menu of sweet and sour sauce and with your choice of chicken, beef, pork, fish or vegetables. Chinese Cricket Club offers a very sophisticated menu with a good balance of meat and vegetarian dishes, which specialises in Sichuan dishes. A small selection of dim sum is also offered.

The place is elegant and calm. Nicely decorated with gold (which is my current favourite colour) and furnished in a modern style. Tableware is a mixture of fancy shapes and Japanese style. Perfect for entertaining someone you really want to impress. Being situated inside a hotel, I would expect a clientèle of business people staying in the hotel. It is slightly expensive place to dine in. Good place, good food and good service, I am always happy to pay the price.

On our first evening, we had six main course dishes with two bowls of plain white rice to feed the four of us. The subsequent evening, we had half of a crispy roast duck as a starter. It is a generous portion, even for four, but nonetheless we had no trouble finishing the dish. The dish was presented with the duck meat already shredded. I was slightly disappointed as I assumed that there would be a mini theatre of the de-boning art work. Meat slightly dry and tough with the lack of crispy skin that I was looking forward to.

Moving on to the rest of the dishes on our first night…

chicken with sweet vinegar – this is my favourite dish. Deep fried cutlets of chicken to give the crispiness on the outside and yet the flesh remained moist and succulent. The sweetness of this dish seeped in well with the vinegar used. The orange taste in the dish gives a surprise sweetness.

garlic pork ribs, served with mayonnaise – Surprisingly these were quite crispy on the outside, whilst being soft and succulent within, very nice indeed!

steamed scallops with black bean sauce – This dish arrived cold and the black bean sauce did not have the expected salty fermented taste. The waiter seemed a little stunned when I gave him my opinion of the dish (he should not have asked me if he is not ready for an answer). Pardon me, I was very polite but he just collected the empty dishes and quietly walked away.

claypot duck with lotus – The sauce has the right thickness consistency. Mild and not too spicy, duck meat was tough. Duck meat, in general, is tough and quite a tricky meat to cook with. However, I was confused as the menu did say that it was served with lotus. I can quite confidently say that it was accompanied with only carrots and water chestnuts.

seasonal vegetable – Pak choy stir fry with shiitake mushroom was perfectly done. The vegetable was crisp and natural sweetness of the pak choy really does not need any fuss.

Shiitake mushroom with spring onionsshiitake mushroom with spring onions – This is also, yet another, everyone’s favourite dish. First and foremost, shiitake mushroom is of good quality, and it is cooked with the sauce which is not too overpowering. This really makes the woody taste of the mushroom even stands out more.

…and on our subsequent night…(including the seasonal vegetable and shiitake musroom with spring onions),

Pork Belly with Corianderpork belly with coriander – This was very good, but not as good as I have come to expect at home. The taste of the coriander came through beautifully, but I would have hoped for more of the succulent fat on the pork belly. Did I mention that this dish is also one of the chef’s signature dishes?

diced chicken with ginger, sesame and spring onion – Chicken meat is moist and the sauce not too gelatinous. The ginger taste is very subtle.

Seafood noodle with King Prawnschef’s seafood noodle with King Prawns – This is what a proper prawn looks like. The meat is juicy. The noodle is good, not too oily or starchy. Taste wise it is very ordinary.

The only criticism I have with the restaurant is that I find that the waiters and waitresses too dressed up – in suits and ties. My personal preference is to a more relaxed environment. They are very attentive to our needs. Almost too attentive at times. They seemed to want to outdo each other and earn brownie points when all three of the waiters came over in quick succession and asked us if we are ok!  Also, the eagerness of the waiter in recommending the food is so overzealous that it comes across as imposing. They are indeed quite knowledgeable about their dishes and have been educated well with the pairing of wines and food. Despite the formality of the place, I was not made to feel undermined and inferior appearing in jeans, my everyday sweater and MBTs.

Otherwise we would not have gone back within the last three days.

Chinese Cricket Club

19 New Bridge Street
EC4V 6DB
London, United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7438 8051

http://www.chinesecricketclub.com

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