Wednesday, 22nd May 2019 – The Chinese Cricket Club, London
This one was not of my choosing – it was a work-related dinner – but turned out to be much better than you might expect of a restaurant in an hotel (the Crowne Plaza Blackfriars). With a group of 13 of us booked to dine in the Chinese Cricket Club, apparently “named in honour of the original Chinese National Cricket team”, it was probably just as well that most of them decided to go with the set menu. The “picky” people including myself sat ourselves down at the other end of the table and decided to explore the more interesting section of the a la carte menu.
I also got to pick the wine, on the grounds that I’m “picky” so selected a reasonably priced – for London and an hotel anyway – Chenin Blanc and a Malbec, to make sure everyone would be happy. They were, so that was a job well done and I got to drink something I knew I was going to enjoy as well! The wine list apparently only contains wines produced in vineyards with a connection to a sportsman or woman, though whether that’s as owners or just a name to put on a label, I don’t know. The wine list contains what can best be described as a nonsensical claim that “we’ve partnered with Sporting Wine Club to bring you wines by some of the most skilful and prolific sportsmen in history. All of the Club’s wines are produced by sporting personalities and every wine they sell is an estate wine, bottled at source”.
While I was choosing we were supplied with a couple of small bowls of prawn crackers that meant we got about three each. Both bottles were perfectly drinkable though perhaps not especially exciting. The Schalk Burger & Sons Welbedacht Sauvignon Blanc 2010 was apparently last available for sale commercially in February 2014, with an average price of £4, and the hotel is selling it at £34. The red was an L10 Malbec Casa Bianchi Leo 2017, which you can buy for less than £10 if you don’t buy it here, where it too will cost you £34.
Anyway, to the food. My colleague J. and I decided to share a couple of starters, though I couldn’t persuade him to share a main or two. First up was a dish of wild mushrooms (though they seemed to be mostly enoki mushrooms) sautéed with chilli. They were tasty and packed quite a kick, which wasn’t entirely unexpected., and also included quite a lot of strips of red pepper, green pepper and carrots.
Less successful, and in fact disappointingly rubbery, were the honey soya king prawns. The sauce was tasty enough, but the three large prawns had been over-cooked to oblivion. They took some breaking into when we tried to divide one between us to ensure we got our fair share each, and really needed a sharp knife not a spoon. I’m of the opinion that if I go again I’d not bother with the prawns.
In addition to being hot both in temperature and in spicing terms, it was enormous. I was more than happy to let other people try some, and still struggled to get through all of it. The chef wasn’t especially generous with the fish (monkfish isn’t cheap, after all), but what there was of it was good, well cooked and delicious. I had a bowl of XO seafood fried rice to go with it, which was also enormous and very piquant indeed.
By the time I’d eaten as much of that as I could, there was no way I could manage a dessert so I can’t tell you if that was any good or not. I was just happy to step outside and manage to grab a taxi immediately. Would I go again? Probably. I wouldn’t make a journey specially, but – prawns aside – I’d be happy enough to explore a little more of the menu, especially the mapo tofu that one of my colleagues had, and the prawns and scallops in XO sauce that another one had. I did get a taste of both of those dishes and they seemed good to me, especially given that I mostly really can’t be bothered with tofu.