Historical version 5 of Chilli Cool, WC1H 9EW (view current version)

Cheap and cheerful cafe-style Sichuan restaurant in Bloomsbury/St Pancras. (Its Chinese name, lao3 cheng2 du1, translates as "Old Chengdu".) It's located in a fairly studenty area and has ambience to match.

Kake, Sarah, Ewan, and friends visited on a Wednesday evening in January 2010. We hadn't booked, but our party of five was seated immediately when we arrived a little before 7:30pm (though the place was full by the time we left, and other reviewers have mentioned having to queue for a table).

Dry-fried green beans with minced pork (charmingly translated on the website as "stir-fried before stewing the jack bean dry", £6.80) photo arrived very quickly; although some reviewers have complained of saltiness in this dish, we didn't think it was excessive, and the flavour and texture were both good. Dongpo-style braised belly pork (£8.80) photo was enjoyed by all; a large chunk of tender, long-cooked pork in a flavourful, slightly sweet gravy. Beef and ox tripe in chilli sauce (served cold; a dish known elsewhere as "man and wife lung slices", £6.90) photo was a good rendition, with a good texture to both beef and tripe. Ma po tofu (£6.80) photo was also a good example of its type.

Perhaps the most impressive-looking dish of our meal was the fish hotpot (£15.80 for the "medium" size) photo, which arrived covered in a blanket of dried red chillies. This dish is less scary than it initially appears; the chillies are there to provide flavour, rather than to be eaten, and the slices of fish and cubes of tofu buried underneath proved to be perfectly-cooked, with the fish retaining its texture right through to the last slice. (Note that although this wasn't "hotpot" in the steamboat sense, they do offer steamboat too.)

Minced pork dumplings with chilli oil (£5.80) photo were pleasant enough, with their slippery, silky-soft skins and modest size meaning a decent number in the portion. Dan dan noodles (£5.80) photo were a little bland, less flavourful than the ones Kake had a few months back in No. 10. Steamed rice (£1.50/portion according to the out-of-date website prices) was fine, though Kake wished for slightly bigger portions; however, looking at our bill photo later, they seem not to have charged us for it.

We ended up paying £20/head for ample food and wine, including the auto-added 10% service charge. Service was quick and efficient, though we did have to ask for enough serving spoons. There was no problem bringing us tap water. Bland pop music was playing throughout our visit, though not annoyingly loudly.

Accessibility: No step to get in (just a ridge), but half of the seating is down three steps at the back, and the toilets (which were lacking both loo roll and a working handdryer on our visit) are down a narrow, sharply-bending, low-ceilinged staircase.

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Last visited by Kake, Sarah, Ewan, and friends, 27 January 2010. Opening hours taken from the Chilli Cool website, February 2010.
OS X co-ord: 530188 OS Y co-ord: 182522 (Latitude: 51.526610 Longitude: -0.124716)
This is version 5 (as of 2010-05-18 22:24:34). View current version. List all versions.