Visits to Chinese restaurants so often end up in a table full of dishes in more colours than you realised food could end up which all taste exactly the same, and as such I don’t usually bother with them unless a hangover demands it. But clearly what my palate had been looking for all these years was a xinjiang menu, which is the flavour-packed cuisine that Silk Road serves up at low, low prices.
We accidentally and conveniently took a friend who’d spent years in China, which meant he knew what to order and confirmed that everything we tried was just as it should be. You couldn’t choose the wrong thing here, though; we scraped every plate clean. A warm starter of soft aubergine was soaked in a deceptively rich, light dressing. Thickly spiced, juicy chunks of fatty lamb on skewers for just a pound a pop were so delicious that we nearly asked for another round. The huge bowl of chicken, potatoes and fresh noodles in a fiery broth was immensely satisfying. The tender meat had managed to soak up extra flavours which complimented the savoury soup perfectly, and the potatoes hid a soft smokiness.
Service was brusque but efficient, and the bill for five of us, including a beer each, was £60. I could barely buy the magical ingredients to produce such tasty dishes on that budget, even if I spent hours trawling the Chinese supermarket with a translator. I couldn’t fault Silk Road, and I will never eat flavourless, bright orange, beansprout-packed ‘Chinese’ again.
49 Camberwell Church St, SE5 8TR, 020 7703 4832