19 New Bridge Street
Crowne Plaza London (The City),
The night that we visited the Chinese Cricket Club, London was experiencing its first flurry of festive snow for 2009. The city looked a picture, but there wasn't a vacant taxi to be found for love nor money. Walking across London Bridge to New Bridge Street proved to be a bracing experience, and when we finally arrived in front of the Crowne Plaza London, we were in serious need of being warmed through.
Named in honour of the newly formed Chinese National Cricket team, the Chinese Cricket Club is a mix of plush décor with a hint of gentleman's club about it. There were a few tables filled with city types, as you would expect given the restaurant's location, but couples and groups of diners from the hotel spilled into the same space before long.
As neither my dining partner nor I fall into the category of the fussy eater, we took up the manager's offer of ordering for us. I quite like leaving your meal in the hands of someone else, as invariably you end up trying things you would never pick out yourself. Think personal culinary stylist. The only slight drawback of this decision ended up being the number of dishes that kept on appearing. We started off with moreish little snacks that arrived in the shape of spiced chilli nuts and pickled Chinese cabbage, (which was difficult to eat with chopsticks, but also difficult to stop eating, so we persevered).
Then we picked our way through black cod dumplings (gorgeous), prawn & pork dumplings and tea-smoked duck, which tasted wonderfully earthy and gamey. Then came the dish of the night: soft shell crab with chilli dressing. The bowl of crab, which was generous in size, brimmed with soft, succulent mouthfuls of crab, fried in the lightest of batters. The chilli dressing set off the dish perfectly, packing a punch against the delicate white flesh of the crab.
By this point we were starting to panic about how many main dishes would be arriving on our table. Shamefully we couldn't quite wade all the way through our sweet & sour sea bass, slippery chicken and spicy pork, but we certainly made a dent. The sweet & sour sea bass won our vote, with its sticky caramelised texture and the accompanying Chinese green beans tasted deliciously garlicky and good, despite their healthy-looking credentials.
Dessert was off the menu as we had quite clearly run out of room for it, but a balancing cup of jasmine tea rounded off a quite gargantuan meal. It was what we needed though, before we headed out of the Chinese Cricket Club's sleek, warm interior and back into the snow flurry which London was whipping up outside. Executive head chef Brendan Speed has something to offer London here: modern, well turned out Sichuan cuisine, which thankfully leaves a little fire in your belly.
A two-course meal for two with wine will set you back by around £70.00 - £80.00.
**Chinese Cricket Club:** Crowne Plaza London (The City), 19 New Bridge Street, London, EC4V 6DB. Tel: 020 7438 8051. For more information, please visit: http://www.chinesecricketclub.com.
**Reviewer: **Helenka Bednar