Barshu Restaurant

Chinese, Szechuan·
·
Silver Award
·

SquareMeal Review of Barshu Restaurant

Silver Award

Strictly a domain for chilli-heads, this smart, light-filled Chinese delivers a riotous flavour ride, Szechuan-style. Complaints of “lucky dip” portion sizes have been addressed with the introduction of illustrated menus, which also help to identify the hottest propositions. Dry-wok options (stir-fried frog’s legs, pig’s offal and duck tongues) all arrive emblazoned with dried chilli, as do fleshy strips of boiled sea bass and appetisers such as sliced pork belly, nestled in a blood-red sauce. Moments of relief come in the shape of soothing soups, and stews, and you’ll probably be glad to see mango sorbet and coconut ice cream offered for dessert. The restaurant makes no bones about the fact that it uses MSG and aims to turn your table within two hours – two drawbacks that will be familiar to anyone who frequents neighbouring Chinatown. High prices are out of sync with the neighbourhood, but you’re paying for an “authentic”, thoroughly thrilling taste of central China.

Good to know

Cuisines
Chinese, Szechuan
Ambience
Traditional
People
Group dining [8+], Special occasions

Location

28 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 5LF

0207 2878 8822 0207 2878 8822

Website

Opening Times

Mon-Sun 12N-11pm (Fri-Sat -11.30pm)

Reviews

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21 Reviews 
Food/Drink
Service
Atmosphere
Value

Gary L

20 February 2023   - Verified Diner
Food & Drink 5
Service 3
Atmosphere 3.5
Value 5
Top notch food

We ordered various small and large dishes, they arrived 'as ready' which isn't ideal.

We ordered tap water, which wasn't delivered until the second ask.

The food was sensational.  Salt and pepper squid, which has become a 'must have' item on every chinese menu in London now, and is frequently poor, was cooked to perfection.

We had one of the signature fish dishes as a centre piece and it was incredibly good.

'Legendary' noodles were superb.

Absolutely definitely going back.

gordon F

23 November 2022  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 5

very authentic szechwan food , great atmosphere and reasonable prices

voi shim W

22 March 2022   - Verified Diner
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 4.5
Value 4.5
Good food

V friendly and prompt service . Will

go again 

Naomi I

21 March 2018  
Perfect setting, welcolming staff, great tasting food seved hot. Mid range price. Lot of food in a portion value for money. Great to share.

Simon W

16 July 2017  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 4
Value 5
Maintaining high standards in Sichuan cooking
BARSHU is a gem!! The quality of the food and the wonderful friendly service - make this an absolute "go to" restaurant if you like Spicy Sichuan cuisine.

Richard P

14 April 2016  
Food & Drink 3.5
Service 3.5
Atmosphere 3.5
Value 3
Lottery
The food here is a real lucky dip, not just the taste but the portion sizes. Both the starters and mains can range from small enough to feed a gnat to large enough to end famine in Africa. Everything you order also runs the chili gauntlet. If you order anything marked "hot" from the dry wok section expect to have a gross of dried, mainly whole, red chilies delivered to your table, with a smattering of the other ingredients. But all said and done the food was really tasty, it was one of the more authentic Chinese places I've eaten in and we had a window seat on a Saturday night. I'd go back.

gowsia H

07 November 2013  
Food & Drink 4
Service 2
Atmosphere 3
Value 3
Authentic food
Authentic good food, however the service is appalling. The waitresses could not be any grumpier. Restaurant was buzzy but cramped. Ladies, do not be fooled by the prices and think that this is a dressy place.

Kenichi I

02 June 2013  
Food & Drink 4.5
Service 3.5
Atmosphere 4
Value 3
Best Sichuan in London
Sichuan (proper Mandarin Chinese term for Szechuan) food is supposed to be hot and spicy. In London, spicy food tends to be milder than what it originally is in home country. But in this restaurant food is delivered to your table with full real taste (not only spicy but with all those actual flavours which make it all the while to go through the pain in your mouth!). Most of employees are experienced and trained well so you wouldn't be in a trouble usually. Only one thing would be the price, but for the quality and authenticity, I would accept it.

Alex G

02 April 2013  
Food & Drink 3.5
Service 2.5
Atmosphere 3
Value 2
Not for the faint-hearted or small-walleted
Londoners often face a challenge when it comes to finding good Chinese restaurants: on the one hand, there is the MSG-heavy Cantonese food that predominates much of Chinatown, and on the other, there is the likes of Hakkasan and its ilk, as much fashion destination as food experience, with only the briefest of nods to China as opposed to ‘pan-Asia.’ At least at Bar Shu, tucked at the edge of Soho, where Frith Street meets Romilly Street, the experience is somewhat more authentic. The style of food here is Sezchuan, namely from the eponymous region of southern China, where there is a strong emphasis on chilli and pepper. The menu is wonderfully varied and makes no bones about what is on offer. A “mouth-numbing” beef appetiser (their words, printed in the menu), leaves little to the imagination, while for the mains, adventurous diners can choose from dishes including tripe (edible offal), chicken gizzards (the animal’s digestive organs) and pig’s intestines. Actually, I went for the latter as my main, prepared in a dry wok with extensive chillies and other spices. It tasted notably porcine and indeed elegantly spiced (I was not reaching for my drink every other second, despite a ‘two-chilli’ rating on the menu). All our dishes were a success and Bar Shu also excelled with its vegetable sides, of which we enjoyed the fungus ear mushroom (again, not as bad as it sounds) and the lotus root. Two things, however, let Bar Shu down. First, the service, while not actually bad, was distinctly lacking in warmth, despite (or maybe because) the restaurant was only half full. Second, the food while good, does not come cheap. If not Hakkasan, then one can probably get better value than the c£90 the two of us spent on our outing, comprising just two beers each, two starters, two mains and two sides (along with rice and service; but still…)

Helen L

01 November 2012  
Food & Drink 4.5
Service 2.5
Atmosphere 3.5
Value 2.5
It’s hard to capture just how addictive Sichuan food can be. There comes a point when your lips are a-glow with peppery heat, and your mouth feels like it’s darting across your face; resembling the subject of a cubist portrait when Picasso was at his most barmy. Once the tingle subsides and you’re confident your chops haven’t burned clean through, all that’s left is a tremendous sense of wellbeing and the question: what the devil was that, and can I have some more? This is why I find myself returning to Bar Shu again and again. People pooh-pooh service as abrupt, surly and ruthless and – having been four times now – I can confirm all these things. But I’m comfortable in the knowledge that everyone is treated with equal disdain; that the cool reception is not solely reserved for me; and that there's no restaurant quite like it in London. Bar Shu's a place where the nose-to-tail hardcore can fill their boots as there's all manner of glandular delight on the menu. At the last visit, we spied a plate writhing with eels and searingly-hot oil being marched to a table, followed by trails of jellyfish (complete with unnerving wibble). I'm relieved to say that not every dish is a bushtucker trial though. I’ve always been impressed by the veritable extravaganza of dolled-up veg on offer, so we gave some a whirl last week. Take ‘phoenix tail’ greens in the so-called ‘strange-tasting’ sauce that's normally reserved for bang bang chicken. Or the melting loveliness of fish-fragrant aubergine laced with spiced caramel and sesame oil. We ate green beans with skins wrinkled by a fierce dry heat, seasoned with tangy ground pork. Smacked cucumbers – a staple across South East Asia – tempered their cool, chilled flesh and fresh herbs with uppity bites of chilli. And DanDan noodles were a simple dish done exceedingly well, sitting just the right side of al dente. Our token meat-based dish – Dong Bao chicken – was delicious, and a safe option with echoes of a darned good Cantonese-style sweet and sour. But for me it was all about the authentic Sichuan bean curd dish: bless that pock-marked old woman from whom this tofu gets its name. Captivating in its moreish weirdness, we polished off the whole sizeable dish between two. But lordy, it'll cost you. On the plus-side, there’s no need to fork out for wine because it’s not a cuisine that benefits from it. We drank green tea, and a procession of cooling cocktails made from soothing aloe and salted plum. I tend to scarcely notice the surroundings in Bar Shu. I'm too sucked in by the heady and slightly psychedelic culinary experience, way too busy playing with my food. But there are wood carvings, lively chatter, and a laid-back dress code (plus it's usually quite cool; a blessing, given the chilli heat). I look forward to nipping across the road to the sister restaurant Ba Shan, which is even more relaxed and (mercifully) cheaper. I wonder what delights await there?
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