Historical version 8 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 February 2011 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. As of April 2012, however, a comment on South East Central notes that they've now acquired an English name of "Taste Inn". 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, the decor is pretty cafe-like. The ground floor seats around 25 people at small two-person or four-person tables covered with paper tablecloths. There are a couple of private rooms upstairs, one of which at least has karaoke facilities.
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). On another midweek visit in February 2011, it was somewhat busier, but this may have been because it was Chinese New Year's Eve.
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. (Note that the photo linked here was taken in summer 2010; when we ordered it again in February 2011 it was rather more scrappily presented.)
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.
Disappointingly, fried shredded pork in Peking sauce (京醬肉絲/jīng jiàng ròu sī; £6) photo didn't come with the beancurd pancakes that it should have, but rather the wheat-based pancakes normally served with crispy shredded duck.
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 generally fine, though a little slow on our February 2011 visit (we suspect the large groups in the upstairs rooms were keeping them busy). 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.