Barshu, W1D 5LF

Sichuan restaurant in Soho, just north of Shaftesbury Avenue. When it originally opened it was known as Bar Shu, but was renamed Barshu when it reopened following a mid-2009 refurbishment, for trademark reasons.

claud made a couple of evening visits in late 2008, on both occasions with a very large group (>10), and was not disappointed. The food was excellent — some of the best Chinese food in London, as agreed upon by our parties.

The menu includes some very traditional Sichuan fare, some of which is numbingly spiced with the Sichuan peppercorn, some of which features exciting cuts of offal. On our last visit we tried the dry-fried green beans, which were full of flavour and somehow smokey (we were told this was the effect of a preserved vegetable in the dish). We also had the twice-cooked pork, fish fragrant pork slivers, water-boiled beef, kung pao chicken and old lady's pockmarked tofu, all classic Chinese dishes.[1]

The kitchen did very well in meeting (Singaporean and Chinese) expectations; the food was almost extravagantly tasty and unapologetically unctuous. I'd pick out the twice-cooked pork and water-boiled beef as highlights. Twice-cooked pork is pork belly simmered, sliced and then stirfried with vegetables (so cooked twice), and was really sinfully tasty with the layers of fat and meat, almost like a softer, less salty bacon. The water-boiled beef was simmered in chilli oil and Sichuan peppercorns and was the spiciest thing we had that evening, although some commented that it was more the numbing effect of the Sichuan peppercorn than the heat of the chilli they tasted. It's definitely something you have to try if you enjoy spicy food, the combination of chilli oil and Sichuan peppercorn is quite literally a taste explosion.

Service was reasonable on the last occasion we visited (with 15 people, no less) although at the start of the evening they seemed somewhat stretched with about three waiting staff to the entire floor. This improved after we ordered our food; we got regular rice and water refills without having to ask and the courses came in rapid succession. We had a time limit on our table, which in my experience can cause massive unhappiness, but the staff ensured we were done in good time and we had no issues timewise. The bill came to about £20/head, including wine and service.

claud's verdict: I would definitely recommend Bar Shu if you enjoy spicy food or want to explore a side of Chinese cuisine that's not extensively featured in the largely Cantonese restaurants of Chinatown. Having been there twice with large groups, I'd also recommend it for that sort of occasion. (Ordering might be difficult though - you can make like me and do all the ordering as is the prerogative of a Chinese host. ;p ) The provisions for vegetarians are not great, however, and worse for vegans. If ordering dishes to share, vegetarians may find themselves limited to two or three dishes depending on the size of their party.

[1] I can only remember the Chinese names, so the English translations are approximate and may not appear on the menu as such.

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Last visited by claud, some time in late 2008.

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OS X co-ord: 529810 OS Y co-ord: 180980 (Latitude: 51.512332 Longitude: -0.129123)
Last edited 2014-04-14 12:04:14 (version 30; diff). List all versions.