Meals Home, London: “Full on, in an excellent approach” – Restaurant overview | meal

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Food House, 46 Gerrard Street, London W1D 5QH (020 7287 2818). Starters £5.80-£9.80; large dishes £9.80-£24.80; Hot Pot £18-£38.80; whole fish £36. Wines from £19.80

All parents will keep a deep affection for every restaurant where their once small children were happy and therefore the family was harmonious and no one died, and now can we all please go home? That’s why, despite the endless whining about the current quality of pizzas, the stupidity of the hole-in-the-centre pizza and the blood-sucking efforts of venture capital firms, Pizza Express retains the love of a middle-class British platter. They have managed to maintain a culture that welcomes young children without infantilizing their weary parents. It’s a neat trick. And if you still want to rant about why Pizza Express is awful, please take it up on Reddit. Someone there will gag for your hot shot.

I have similarly warm, fuzzy feelings about the premises at 46 Gerrard Street in London’s Chinatown, with its vaulted marble facade. For many years it was a highly reliable Cantonese place called Harbor City. My boys loved the dim sum there when they were little and so did I. The fluffy, cloudy char siu buns had an unusual citrus kick. The Har Gow were spot on. A Sunday lunchtime in Harbor City was always good.

‘Beautiful to look at’: whole roasted sea bass. Photo: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Recently, website Eater London, an offshoot of the US Eater empire, published a list of 38 “essential” London restaurants. If you don’t know Eater London, picture them as the cool boys in the back seat of the school bus of the food journalism world; The ones that listen to these bands you’ve never heard of and yes they have a girlfriend she just goes to a different school. But the thing about the cool guys is that secretly you’ve always wanted to listen to these bands to find out what’s so great about them. Because maybe that would make you cool too.

Included on that essentials list, alongside reliable hits like Mangal 2, Trullo and, um, the River Café, was a Sichuan restaurant called Food House, which they said is “the hottest spot in central London.” In keeping with the whole back seat bus thing, it was so trendy, so cool, I had never heard of it. I glanced at the address. Flip me around: It’s located on what was once Harbor City. Of course I booked.

“Silky Skin”: Fried Pork Dumplings. Photo: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Judging by the carpets, I’d say little has been done to the joint in years. But this is a very different kind of restaurant than what I was used to. It’s all that great, bouncy, thrilling chilli and numbing peppercorn hullabaloo that those of us addicted to the Sichuan repertoire just love. I think you’re saying that Sichuan food isn’t just about chilli spiciness, it’s about flavor. And of course it’s not just about chili heat. But actually it is. There’s even a samovar-style carafe of bright red oil, full of chili peppers, on the bar for them to dispense like absinthe at the touch of a button. If I had brought my boys here when they were little, they would have pulled their sleeves in the face of all this strangers and asked to be taken somewhere safe. Or maybe a security shield. Food House is in full swing in a very good way.

One of the dishes that is regularly talked about on the internet is the scary-sounding red chilli oil noodles. It’s actually one of the more comforting plates full: broad, jagged ribbons of pasta the color of baby teeth, brushed with just enough purple oil to remind you where you are. We topped it with tender chunks of long stewed lamb. It’s a comfort food when you’re caught in a winter storm, or imagine you might be.

Yu Xiang eggplant in sauce.‘A Deep Shiny Sauce’: Yu Xiang Eggplant. Photo: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Before we get to that, there are other thrills. There’s the barbecue menu with things on skewers, topped with cumin, salt, chili and the occasional bit of sugar. Often these involve mimic affairs, delivering stuck pebbles of hard matter. Here, the Red Willow Twig Lamb Skewers are firm, chunky chunks of still-smoking baby sheep. There are also lamb kidney skewers, which arrive coated in crispy fat and need to be eaten while still hot. I understand that offal and its fat is not for everyone. you are my thing We have king prawns that seem to get even sweeter under the heavy hand of the spice mix. There are also pan-fried pork cabbage dumplings with silky skin that makes the juice run down my chin. It’s an attractive look.

We have Yu Xiang aubergines (aubergines, on this menu) in a deep, glossy sauce, and from the wide selection of offal dishes, a massive plate of kidneys in a hot and sour sauce. When I called to book I was asked if I would like the hot pot. It’s a big deal here. I’ve tried them elsewhere and never enjoyed them as much as I think I should. This is partly because no matter how diverse the list of ingredients you add to the boiling broth or oil, they all end up tasting pretty similar to me. It’s also due to incompetence. I usually end up sticking a finger dipped in chili in one eye or the other.

Red chilli oil noodles with lamb“One of the more comforting plates full”: Red Chili Oil Noodles with Lamb. Photo: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Instead, we have another of their big statement dishes: a whole sea bass for sharing, first roasted so the skin and meat are crispy along the tail, where it narrows. It was then dipped in a bath of chilli oil, with dried chili peppers and sliced ​​lotus roots, sprigs of coriander, halved garlic cloves and more. It’s great to look at, as if it has its own stage lighting system, and justifies its £36 price tag on that dashing look alone.

However, it is not easy to eat. We go in together and work our way around the bones to get the precious meat. But it’s well worth it: the soft fish has a sweetness tinged red with its powerful alcohol. It can get messy. Either wear a bib or no white shirt. Maybe you don’t care about clothes at all. It’s a pretty chilled place. Drink bottles of Yanjing beer to ease the burn. I have to believe the cool guys on the bus that this is a very trendy restaurant. I’ve long lost the ability to recognize what’s fashionable and what’s not. But I can say it’s a lot of fun. I have a good reason to finally return to 46 Gerrard Street.

Jay’s news bite

In OFM’s January issue, I featured six chefs worth seeing in 2022, including Helen Graham from beautiful Middle Eastern vegetarian restaurant Bubala in London’s Spitalfields. She and business partner Marc Summers have just announced a second Bubala, this time in Soho on the grounds of Vasco & Piero’s venerable Italian Pavilion. The 50 seat restaurant will open in April (bubala.co.uk).

Per Diem is a new grocery and household goods delivery service that says it wants to do boring things “quite well.” It offers only the bare essentials – dry pasta, flour, sugar, rice, cleaning supplies and so on – but only one good example of each, sourced from independent suppliers. At the moment there are therefore only 50 articles on the website. The products can be ordered on-demand or monthly and also offer a box-free refill service (getperdiem.com).

Rosa’s Thai, which has offices nationwide, is attempting to address the hospitality industry’s skill shortage by launching its own chef training program. The Wok School will operate from the ground floor of their Warren Street restaurant in London and will offer courses of varying lengths. Participants are paid £11.45 per hour and their dishes are served to customers at a 50% discount. Participants who complete the course are offered a job at the end (jobs.rosasthai.com/wok-school).

Email Jay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jayrayner1

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