Nothing special to look at, unless you’re bowled over by portraits of Elvis & Tom Jones, the Empress of Sichuan is, however, ‘definitely not your garden-variety Chinese restaurant’. Its long & adventurous menu of Szechuan dishes offers not just numbing heat & offal thrills, but warming braises, salty preserved vegetables & cooling marinated noodles. Portions are big, but there’s a lot to try: cold starters include hot & fiery beef slices & tripe (excellent), chilled tofu with spring onion, & duck tongues in soy sauce. Dan-dan noodles are ‘an absolute winner’, & steamed pork ribs with rice paste come in a bamboo tube. Service is ‘smiling’ & helpful, & prices are reasonable. Drink a bottle of Tsingtao beer, or cool your burning oesophagus with salted soya milk. ‘Off-beam & utterly brilliant’, declares a fan.
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