Bar Shu W1
REVIEWS, June 6, 2006
Overall Value
out of 5
  • Food
  • Service
  • Ambience
Barshu, 28 Frith St, London, W1D 5LF

Are the media – heaven forbid – sometimes prone to exaggeration? Are merely interesting restaurant sometimes hailed as great? Is there sometimes an element of group-think among leading critics? These, and many more, thoughts were inspired by our visit to this new Soho Chinese – a restaurant which has provoked an almost unprecedented Halleluiah Chorus of positive reviews (abetted by much foodie froth about the cuisine of Sichuan, which is a relative London rarity)

The headline fact about Sichuan cooking is that it can be take-the-roof-off-your-mouth hot. So – for four blokes sitting around our critical table, beers at the ready – it came as something of a let-down to find that the spicing of some dishes specifically ordered for their three-chilli menu was just tame. A prominently featured chicken dish was particularly timid, verging on tasteless. Perhaps the chillis just hadn’t arrived that day.

There’s more to life, of course, than crying chilli-induced tears, and other dishes lived up more closely to our high expectations. Or so half the table thought anyway – Chinese cuisines seem able, perhaps to a unique extent – to take different people different ways. For example, a huge bowl of reasonably spicy mixed offal (ox heart, tripe, tongue’ you know the sort of thing) was disgusting to half the table, sublime to the other. Greens in peanut sauce was off-putting to two of the party, but mesmerised the taste buds of other two. At least everyone could agree that thinly sliced duck with egg was unusually subtle.

If the spicing of more dishes had lived up to their billing, one could perhaps have written off the objections of the unconvinced as just the whinging of those not men enough for such a genuine oriental feast. From our visit, however, this seems just a very interesting – but erratic – contributor to the oriental dining scene.

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