It’s appropriate that I have a review of this restaurant just now. We have just watched the Cricket World Cup semi-final and are about to settle in front of the TV to watch the final (the equivalent of the American Super-Bowl or the Football World Cup), when India will face Sri Lanka. But the food at Chinese Cricket Club restaurant is very definitely Chinese.
The restaurant is named in honour of the Chinese National Cricket Team, who played their first international match in 2009. The title also commemorates, so says the website for the restaurant, the recent translation of the Laws of Cricket into Mandarin by the Asian Cricket Council. So does that mean the Chinese played their match before they had the rules?
The Chinese Cricket Club is across the lobby of the Crowne Plaza London – The City from Refettorio, the hotel’s Italian restaurant run by head chef Alessandro and directed by Giorgio Locatelli. It’s refreshing to find more and more notable restaurants housed in hotels. The days of the assumption of a captive yet transient audience have gone. There were few over-nighting businessmen when we visited the Chinese Cricket Club, but there were a couple of tables occupied by those who were evidently regulars, and some of those were themselves Chinese.
The restaurant is calm and contemporary, 80 covers set in an L-shape. Nothing overtly Chinese apart from some calligraphy scrolls, and nothing too crickety apart from a shirt and a bat. Enough decor fixtures to provide continuity with the intriguing name, but not to make one feel that your waiter should be wearing cricket whites and pads.
Brendan Speed is the Executive Chef at The Chinese Cricket Club. No, evidently he is not Chinese himself. He is Australian and has always had a passion for authentic Chinese food. Australia is a great cricketing nation but also has a thriving Asian cuisine culture. Brendan launched and ran Zuma in Istanbul for two years and that restaurant won a raft of awards. Before that, he was Executive Chef at Movenpick Hotels and Resorts in both Istanbul and Dar Es Salaam – a well-travelled and experienced chef who is ably assisted by Guanghao Wu, a Specialist Oriental Chef with a 20-year career.
I do love the wasabi nuts at the Chinese Cricket Club. OK, so they are not traditionally Chinese but nevertheless moreish and hot, preparing our taste buds for some tingling Sichuan and Hunan spice later; and not much later as we were soon picking at a plate of dry sautéed green beans. This is a practical method of cooking such beans: the colour remains vibrant and the vegetables retain a crunch. These particular beans had agreeable chilli heat.
Soft-Shell Crab with Chilli Mayonnaise was a dish of rich decadence. However did we manage before soft-shell crab? They are popular and it’s no surprise. The version at the Chinese Cricket Club is as much about texture as taste. The mayo added gentle spice.
Singapore Cricket Club Noodles were a high-end variant of others you would probably have had. The difference here is the quality of those non-noodle ingredients. Large prawns made this simple dish into a rather luxurious plateful.
Jumbo Prawns with Ginger was visually the most spectacular of our chosen dishes. The shellfish was tender with a light glaze. These are more like small lobsters than your regular prawns, even those which sport the additional monica of ‘Jumbo.’ A subtle hint of ginger was a foil for the sweetness of the seafood.
Twice-Cooked Pork was memorable and must be a signature dish. I had expected chunks of the regular belly pork but the reality here was much more delicate. The slices of pork were thin-cut and melting, lightly spiced with rich and well-rounded flavour. I’ll not miss this on my return visit – for return there will be.
Hunan Lamb with Scallions is striking and full-bodied. Robust flavours here and just what one would expect from any recipe hailing from Hunan. This dish had a complex flavour palate and the spice was not numbing. A dish to savour with just some steamed rice.
Chilled Coconut Custard with Mango Sauce and a scattering of Lychee was the sweet finale. Creamy with tang from the mango and exotic perfume from the lychee. A suitably tropical end to one of the best Chinese meals I have had in London. The Chinese Cricket Club offers an oasis of quiet, garnished with delicious food and service that is second to none. It deserves its enviable reputation.
Mon – Fri Lunch 12:00 – 14:30
Mon – Sat Dinner 18:00 – 22:00
The Chinese Cricket Club
Crowne Plaza London – The City
19 New Bridge Street, London EC4V 6DB
Phone: 020 7438 8051
Fax: 020 7438 8080
Visit the Chinese Cricket Club here
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018