Located on the corner of New Bridge Street in Blackfriars, Chinese Cricket Club couldn’t be more convenient for those using the newly refurbished Underground station opposite. Don’t look for wickets, practice-nets and pavilion: this Club is located inside The Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Established in 2009, the restaurant is named in honour of the original Chinese National Cricket team, which played their first international match in that year. Nothing overtly Chinese in the décor here apart from some calligraphy scrolls, and nothing too crickety apart from a bat, some cricket pads and one might notice some red cricket balls nestling in the plant pots. Enough décor fixtures to provide continuity with the intriguing name, but not so much as to make one feel that your waiter should be wearing cricket whites and shouting ‘Howzat!’ when delivering one’s food.
This wasn’t my first visit to Chinese Cricket Club. I reviewed a few years ago but I found this experience to be much more positive. The menu had direction and focus, and the realisation of the dishes was outstanding. The cuisine is broadly modern Sichuan and this has been created by Executive Head Chef Ken Wang. He is a newcomer to the restaurant and my first encounter with this man’s food would suggest that his future is bright. Trained in the Jiangsu Province of China, Chef Ken Wang has 20 years’ experience and has evident passion for traditional flavours and flair for presentation.
Sichuan dishes are based on the seven key flavours, which are: hot, spicy, sweet, sour, savoury, bitter and aromatic. Food is robustly layered with garlic and red chilli and Sichuan pepper, which is aromatic with a mouth-numbing quality when eaten in quantity.
We started with Dim Sum and the Signature Platter – which was, in fact, a Chinese bamboo steaming basket. A beautiful and colourful selection of steamed morsels included succulent Scallop Siu Mai, Hargau, Chicken and Spinach Dumplings, and Duck Dumplings. These arrived piping hot so be warned! Each one was unique and delicious – a step up from the dim sum that one might have encountered in other Chinese restaurants.
My guest’s main course consisted of Slow-braised Pork Belly. This is a visually stunning dish: meltingly tender and flavourful pork encasing rice. It’s said to be cooked for 5 hours and one can believe it. This is a must-try here. It isn’t overly spiced so ideal for those who are wary of chilli-heat. Fresh Chinese Greens complemented this dish, along with a healthy portion of my Kim Chi Vegetables. These were not the predictable spicy Korean pickles but a light and vinegar-laced preparation which was a perfect foil for the fat of the pork.
Kung Pao Chicken is a classic dish and this was one of the finest examples. The sauce was mahogany-red, rich, sweet, spicy and addictive. Plenty of chicken garnished with whole red chillies that might be a little intimidating for some but the heat of the chilli doesn’t mask the overall flavour components. This is a truly memorable dish.
Chinese Cricket Club is a winner. Any fan of Sichuan cuisine will appreciate Chef Wang’s interpretation of those regional dishes. This isn’t fusion food but neither is it your usual Chinese restaurant fare. It’s polished and refined but retains authenticity.
Mon – Fri Lunch 12:00 – 14:30
Mon – Sat Dinner 18:00 – 22:00
Chinese Cricket Club
Crowne Plaza London – The City
19 New Bridge Street,
London EC4V 6DB
Phone: 020 7438 8051
Fax: 020 7438 8080
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018