The restaurant: Barshu
Location: 28 Frith St, London W1D 5LF, United Kingdom
Get ready to be fired up on Frith Street with a spicy Sichuan feast at Barshu. The long-standing Soho restaurant has been serving up flavours from the Sichuan and Hunan region of China to Londoners for 15 years. It’s celebrating with a new menu and interior refresh.
In typical Chinese style, the menu is long, offering a myriad of dishes – some diverse and some similar but with a switch up of the sauces. We asked for guidance, a rundown of the best dishes, because it’s so easy to step into a Chinese restaurant and order the same thing you’ve been ordering for the past 10 years. We opted for half we knew, half we didn’t.
Salt and pepper squid was a safe choice, crispy with a squeeze of lemon. It was ordered from the Sichuan style tapas section, a varied selection of snacks and starters, including pounded aubergines, smacked cucumbers and fish-fragrant prawns. Our other pick from this menu — somehow undeterred by the name — was man and wife offal slices. These beef offcuts, cooked in chilli oil, aromatic spices and peppercorns, then served cold had a rough texture, but crisp and tender feel. The spicy dish got its namesake from a married couple in Chengdu who were particularly good at making it.
‘So, how hot is this going to be?’ I ask about the sea bass drenched in sizzling chilli oil I spot over on the next table. I’m not here to pretend I can handle authentic Sichuan spiciness. ‘Let’s have that but please tone it down a bit.’ There’s a chilli rating on the menu where you can select between authentic, mild and not spicy. The sea bass arrives in a silver tray, bathed in chilli broth with crunchy vegetables and another smattering of chillis for good measure. It made our mouths numb and tongues tingle but served up just the right level of zingy-ness.
A steaming hotpot filled with vegetables, meat and fish came next. A Barshu special Maocai, it’s called: fish balls, prawn, tripe, luncheon meat and thin sliced beef and the rest swimming in a spicy, mouth-numbing mala broth. It’s hot, flavoursome and interesting — every mouthful is a taste of something different.
With chillis and special ingredients imported from the Sichuan region, Barshu shows Soho authentic Chinese cuisine without the feeling it has been adapted to a Western palette. Get ready for mouth-numbing hot flavours and explosive flavours when you visit this Sichuan gem.
Open daily from 12-10 pm (10.30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays)
Find out more on barshurestaurant.co.uk
Written by Lauren Mae