Shu Castle, SE1 5TY
- 020 7703 9797
- 194 Old Kent Road, SE1 5TY
- 11:30am-11:30pm Mon-Sat; 11:30am-11pm Sun/Bank Hol
Sichuan restaurant on the Old Kent Road.
It opened some time around the start of 2011, replacing another Chinese restaurant (Dragon Inn, the sister of Dragon Castle in Walworth — Shu Castle and Dragon Castle do appear to still be related). It became much smaller in the process, with space now given over to two large private/karaoke rooms and only around 30 covers in the main dining area.
The decor is bright and modern, with crenellated interior walls echoing the castle theme. Most if not all of the tables have hotpot burners in them.
Kake, bob, Laura, and Les first visited on a Sunday evening in April 2011. We hadn't booked, and there were quite a few families in (it was Mothering Sunday), but we only had to wait a moment for a table to be prepared for us. On another Sunday evening visit by Kake, Les, and KC a couple of months later, it was again pretty full at 7pm (we think with a tour group) but they just managed to squeeze us in.
A cold dish of marinated black fungus (爽口木耳/shuǎng kǒu mù ěr; £4.90 in April 2011) photo had a nice texture, and was fairly spicy. Sometimes this dish is seasoned with vinegar; this version appeared not to be. Meatball soup with beansprouts (豆芽園子湯/dòu yá yuá zi tāng; £4.90/portion in April 2011) had a well-flavoured broth and pleasantly loosely-textured meatballs.
Although the braised duck in dried chilli and ginger sauce (仔姜燒鴨/zǎi jiāng shāo yā; £10 in April 2011) photo was a fairly dry dish (not in a bad way), the duck itself wasn't dry at all. Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐; £6.90 in April 2011) photo, although slightly too gloopy for Kake, used good-quality, soft tofu. There was some flavour of Sichuan pepper in there, though more would have been better. Dan dan noodles (擔擔麵/dān dān miàn; £3.80 in April 2011) photo was a fairly soupy rendition (again, not in a bad way).
We also tried a couple of Sichuan snacks/small eats. Lotus leaf harrow (葉耳耙/yè ěr pà; £3.80 in April 2011) photo turned out to be a sort of mochi-like glutinous rice wrapper with meat inside; quite tasty. Sichuan xiao long bao (四川小籠包; £3.80 in April 2011) photo were quite unlike the more common Shanghai xiao long bao. These had thicker, leavened wrappers and contained shredded meat seasoned with soy sauce; again, they were quite tasty.
Our final bill for food alone, including the auto-added 10% service charge, was £17/head the first time and £20/head the second time. Tea was an additional £1/person. They also have a reasonable wine list; a bottle of pinot grigio on our first visit was £18.80 and sauvignon blanc on our second was £13.50.
Kake's verdict: I've been twice now and I'm still keen to come back.
Accessibility: Step-free access via a ramp (all access is via the lobby of the hotel next door). There are a few corners to negotiate on the way though. Step-free to the toilets once you're in.