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15 Leigh Street
Chilli Cool holds nothing back when it comes to dishing out the fiery cuisine of China’s Szechuan province. The side-street location & utilitarian interiors aren’t up to much, but the thrill is
in the strongly flavoured, punchy food with its emphasis on butcher’s bits & anatomical curiosities. Expect spicy pig’s feet, ox tripe in chilli sauce & lip-numbing, crispy pig’s intestine
– as well as a few safe options such as stir-fried king prawns. If you’re unsure, navigate your way through the middle ground by ordering five-spiced beef or crushed cucumber in garlic sauce ahead
of star turns such as the seafood hotpot (delicate fish floating in what looks like a sea of red chillis) or a traditional Chengdu dish of dan-dan noodles. Take a hanky to mop your brow.
15 Leigh Street
Russell Square Tube Station 344m
King's Cross Station 346m
St. Pancras Youth Hostel 163m
The Place Theatre 260m
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
The most authentic Sichuanese cuisine I've ever tasted in this country – took me back to my childhood with the very first bite.
Service is rather shoddy, slow and impatient. But if you can withstand that, you are sure to be in for a treat. Mouth-numbing flavours, layers of red chilli oil oozing at the top, you will have diners coughing all around you as the peppercorns attack their lungs as they would then to you. If you are brave enough to experience a real Sichuanese meal, then I would definitely point you toward this place.
Not the cheapest Chinese restaurant I've ever been to, but by no means can it be counted as expensive. I'd say £12-15 per person is more than adequate enough for a filling dinner. Be warned that prices are at least 20% more expensive than suggested on their website! (Ma Po Tofu is £6.80 on the website and £7.20 when I arrived to pick it up!)
There is also a hotpot restaurant to the left of the normal restaurant, which I've yet to try (as I visit another hotpot restaurant for half the price), but I imagine it would also be very good.
The place is generally bustling and clearly a known haunt of the East Asian community – which I always take to be a good sign that it serves authentic cuisine. I myself was initially introduced to it through several Asian friends.
In summary: fantastic food, improvable service, decent prices and a definite place to visit if you ever wondered what a volcano feels like in your mouth!
Food + drink: 0
An utterly appalling night out to Chilli Cool. The waiters were inattentive at best as it took them a good ten minutes to take our order and once we did it was extremely difficult to get their attention for anything else. We ordered two hotpots (for religious reasons we couldn't use the same one for both beef and pork) between 5 people and to their credit they did bring two… they just took one of them away almost immediately. We had to ask for it back (3 times) which took 35 minutes, by which point those who could eat beef had almost finished eating while those who couldn't were famished.
Even during this stress we were served frozen meat to cook in our hotpot (in case you were wondering you have a boiling stockpot of soup which you drop meat and vegetable into to cook). I complained and asked them to bring it back defrosted but the waiter's English wasn't up to scratch and instead I received a second batch of frozen meat. I decided this was enough for me and decided not to eat, unfortunately some of the other diners I were with were left with food poisoning the next day. The silver lining was that their food poisoning was only mild but for £20 I think one can expect not to be poisoned and to perhaps enjoy their meal. Not impressed.
Chilli Cool was packed last Saturday night and judging by the high standard of the food, we were not surprised. There's nothing fancy about this place but it does produce some great, straightforward Sichuan food. We were a little apprehensive about how hot the dishes would be and although they were all pretty spicy (we left looking a little rosy), the chilli was not overwhelming.
The Dong-po pork belly came in a delicious bbq style sauce; even the top layer of fat was irresistible and melted in the mouth. The Chef's Fish Hot Pot was incredibly generous and the ‘share’ is plenty for two if not three people; despite swimming with fresh red chillies, these did not distract from the delicate flavour of the fish. If you're looking for something a little less spicy, there are plenty of other options on the extensive menu (try the Gong hao chilli chicken) and the staff are more than ready to guide you through the dishes. The wine list is relatively short – we opted for the house white which was prefectly adequate – but it's hard to really savour anything with your mouth gently on fire!
I would definitely recommend making a reservation if you're going at the weekend but don't be late. We were rather surprised to find that our table had been given away less than 60 seconds after the time it was booked for! Luckily, we didn't have to wait long for another to became available but be warned…
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