I've been very keen to try Szechuan food in London for some time now and recently spent the evening in Bloomsbury sampling the delights of a student union bar, a little over £2 a pint, can't argue with that. After a few of those I thought at last, a chance to sample the delights of Chilli Cool.
I'm not a big fan of chinese food but had high hopes of this place. When we arrived there were several large groups and a few couples, it was refreshingly busy for a fairly out of the way location and I was delighted to find an area of Bloomsbury where all of the streets have the names of towns and villages in my home county of Kent, it all felt like it was meant to be!
Rob, Thomas and I each selected a couple of dishes from the menu, first to arrive was a chicken dish with lots of chilli and some aubergines with a heavily aromatic garlic sauce.
I loved the aubergine and being a fan of chilli the heat of all of the dishes was more than welcome. What is clear from this picture and is one of the things I found less appealing was the amount of oil. It all tasted good, and I was very hungry so greedily gobbled away but after a few bowls full it all got a bit much.
Another rather ovewhelming element of the meal was the amount of salt. Thomas and I actually downed 2 steins full of water when we got home. The shredded potato with chilli was a particularly bad offender but it has a really interesting flavour, I actually like very salty tasting food, feta cheese, capers etc and so I really liked the potato. The chillis did envoke a bit of fear due to the sheer size and quantity of them but I indulged and they were surprisingly fragrant and granted very fiery but not crazily so.
My favourite dish was the belly pork. The meat was so tender and the sauce mild and sticky, the fat was as it should be, soft and full of flavour, and this was a mild dish, no chilli, instead decorated with large slices of cucumber. I loved it.
This is how I wish it had been done at The Warrington where the belly pork had been so disappointing at the weekend, Chilli Cool's was a much tastier version.
I also ordered the dan dan noodles which were good, chopped spring onion and minced pork were sprinkled over the top and the noodles were delicious, nicely coated in soy based sauce and brilliantly long. Again rather salty due to the soy but really delicious.
Although the flavours hit the spot while we were dining, I felt like it had all been a bit heavy and most dishes were virtually swimming with grease. I liked the atmosphere of the place but am unlikely to return, this kind of food, for me, is certainly enjoyable but an occasional forray suffices. I'm certainly not brave enough to opt for the more adventurous offerings of intestines or tripe, I do wish I had gone for one of the fishpots which were the slightly pricier options on the menu. Chilli Cool is extraordinarily good value for money, our bill came in at just over a tenner each though we drank only tap water.
I know that many folk love this place but it's not really my cup of tea and my tummy was decidedly dicky for the rest of the night, not suggesting anything was amiss just that my palate is more accustomed to fresher lighter food, or perhaps we ordered unwisely?
15 Leight St, WC1H