Historical version 2 of China China, SE13 5PT
- 020 8318 2525
- 80 Lee High Road, SE13 5PT
- 1pm-11pm Mon-Tue; 5pm-11pm Wed; 1pm-11pm Thu-Sun (may be variable)
Chinese restaurant in Lewisham, offering Sichuan and Dongbei (northeastern Chinese) specialties.
Its Chinese name is 樂味香 (lè wèi xiāng), and as of August 2010 this is actually the only name on the frontage, though it also goes by the English names of "Le Wei Xiang" and the rather idiosyncratically-translated "Happy Smell" photo. Note that as of August 2010 they accept cash only.
The menu includes both the usual Anglicised Chinese restaurant items, and a separate section labelled "Genuine Chinese Tastes" with all the good stuff, including cold dishes, pig's blood soup, Sichuan dishes, and Dongbei dishes.
Inside, it seats around 25 people at small two-person or four-person tables covered with paper tablecloths. The decor is pretty cafe-like.
Kake visited a couple of times in summer 2010. Both visits were midweek, and the place was practically empty both times, though on the second visit we did note a couple of groups going upstairs for karaoke on the top floor (not audible from the ground-floor dining area).
Sliced pork with mashed garlic (蒜泥白肉/suàn ní bái ròu; £5) photo was wonderfully pungent, with a veritable mountain of mashed garlic — the kind of dish you'll be smelling of for days. The pork was thinly sliced, and dressed with just enough chilli oil that it had a hint of chilli heat and wasn't dry at all. Slivers of cucumber added a refreshing crunch. It was a generous portion — I couldn't finish it, and was very happy that they were willing to pack it up for me to take away.
Coriander with green pepper and onion (老虎菜/lǎo hǔ cài/tiger salad; £3) photo was a bit disappointing, with the vegetables cut into huge chunks rather than the thin slivers that would have made the flavours blend better (see Sanxia Renjia, W1T 2PP for a better rendition).
Shredded tripe with beef slices, sesame seeds, and chilli oil (夫妻肺片/fū qī fèi piàn/man-and-wife offal slices; £5) was good, with well-textured honeycomb tripe and small nibs of peanuts to add even more texture. It wasn't drenched in oil, but what oil there was was nicely hot.
Chinese leaves in vinegar (醋溜白菜/cù liù bái cài; £4) photo were nice and crunchy, with well-balanced flavours. Stir fried tong cai (熗炒空心菜/qiàng chǎo kōng xīn cài; £5) was similarly well-executed, gently flavoured with one or two dried red chillies and Sichuan peppercorns. Plain rice was pretty good, not at all mushy, and just right for picking up with chopsticks.
Service was fine, and tap water arrived quickly on request. They are licensed, but the house wine was nothing special (albeit cheap at around £10/bottle). There was no background music, but they did have the TV on above the bar, showing Chinese soap operas with the sound on.
Kake's verdict: Would happily come back.
Accessibility: A small step up and then down to get in. The toilets are up a flight of stairs with one bend and a handrail.