The Year of the Horse Feast at the Chinese Cricket Club:
Don’t blink, you read the title correctly. The Chinese Cricket Club is an elegant restaurant in the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Blackfriars. Whilst the Chinese are famous for many things – cricket is not a sport you’d normally associate with them. But, apparently, the restaurant is named in honour of the original Chinese National Cricket team, who played their first international match in 2009 – and it’s beautifully themed with old cricketing prints and memorabilia.
I went along as a guest of the Chinese Cricket Club to sample their Chinese New Year menu, unaware that I’d be in for such a feast and when the menu arrived my companion and I were trying to select which dishes to chose. Actually you get everything so there was no need to try and pick.
Our welcome glass of fizz was a lime and midori champagne cocktail – very light and slightly citrussy so a perfect lunchtime aperitif. There are more cocktails on the menu at £10.50 each, not a bad price for this part of London.
On to the food. Of the three starters, the Prawn Har Gao was delicious, although I think the wrapper was rather heavier than it should have been. The little dim sum were packed full of prawns though and very tasty. I still struggled to eat them with chopsticks. Obviously I need to eat a lot more dim sum – after all practise makes perfect!
Given the quantity of food, it’s probably a good thing that the crispy duck came with lettuce wrap rather than pancakes (available on request). Obviously a slightly lighter option I rather liked the crunch of the lettuce wrapper and thoroughly enjoyed this dish
By this stage we were both quite full and took a short break. If you are indulging in one of the feasts at the Chinese Cricket Club it’s worth allowing plenty of time. While the food is in no way heavy, there is quite a lot and it is the the sort of meal that it is good to linger over.
My personal favourite was this dish of grilled jumbo prawns on a vegetable hotpot. I suspect the vegetables had been braised in shellfish stock, certainly we were presented with crisp but perfectly cooked vegetables topped with tender prawns. Although the prawn shells were in the pot, the meat had already been removed and cooked separately.
I was suprised to find a sea bass fillet, rather than whole fish on the menu. I often dine with a Chinese friend when I am eating Asian food and, apart from trying to get me to eat Chicken Feet and Pork Fat, she generally insists that fish should be served with its head on, for luck. It didn’t detract from the dish for me though, and was (for once) something I could manage to eat with my chopsticks without too much fuss!
Sweet and sour pork is a dish I seldom order from a Chinese menu. It’s not that I don’t like it, but I’m something of a food snob and in my head it fits alongside chicken tikka masala as being a Westernised menu option. Of course I have no idea if that is true or not and it was extremely tasty, with very tender, melting pork and a nicely tangy sauce.
The accompanying Yangzhou fried rice was almost a meal in itself. Very delicious and substantial, I’d have prefered a lighter option in the form of some steamed rice (which may well have been available if I’d asked!).
This particular set menu cost £79 per person (including the welcome cocktail). Based on what we ate it would be a great place to take family or have a business lunch – with immaculate service and extremely comfortable and relaxing surroundings and with a menu that is safe rather than challenging. But, perhaps that’s the nature of a Chinese New Year Feast, which is, after all, a family event. I’ve checked the website and they have a slightly more adventurous tasting menu at £45 for five courses and a well priced business lunch option at £14.50 per person including a glass of wine or beer, and more feast menus coming up in the future (for Valentine’s day for example) And, I’m curious to visit again – the restaurant specialises in Dim Sum and Sichuan cuisine and I’d be interested to try some of the spicier options on the menu.
Chinese Cricket Club
Crowne Plaza London – The City
19 New Bridge Street, London, EC4V 6DB