28 Frith Street

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What’s the draw?

The phrase lip-numbing gets thrown around all too often – but the peppercorn-laden, chilli-studded Sichuaun food served at Barshu is exactly that. It’s lived on the same corner of Frith Street for 16 years and offers soothing wood carvings and lantern-adorned interiors to counteract the fair share of Soho sensory overload that comes with its central location.

On offer is distinctly regional cooking from the Chinese province of Sichuan, something less seen in your typical Chinese restaurant, which often amalgamates dishes from different regions. The home of iconic dishes like kung pao, mapo tofu and dan dan noodles, Sichuan cuisine is hallmarked by an abundance of peppercorns, chillies and pickles. That said, the food at Barshu can also be wonderfully subtle and soothing – cooling smacked cucumbers lathered in a sesame paste, tender braised aubergines, hot fried green beans topped with ground pork and so on.

What to eat?

An undeniable highlight of Barshu is its sharing dishes, which arrive like table-sized masterpieces ready to be dismantled by an army of chopsticks. We recommend the aromatic and spicy whole roasted seabass – a huge crispy-skinned but delicate-fleshed piece of fish, which arrives dressed in layers of lotus root, wood ear mushrooms, cauliflower, Sichuan peppercorns and dried chillies and attracts a fair amount of gasps from neighbouring tables.

Beyond that, classic Sichuan plates like that smacked cucumber with a sesame dressing, dan dan noodles, kung pao chicken, salt and pepper soft shell crab and juicy gong bai prawns with cashew nuts should be on your radar. For those unafraid of the, er, wobbly bits of an animal, Barshu is a great place to try everything from marinated brain dough, braised pig stomach and beef tripe. And, if your tongue hasn’t been totally anaesthetised at this point, finish the meal with Barshu’s only pudding – deep-fried glutinous rice fingers dipped in sweet plum sauce. A Chinese churro, if you will.

Sichuan style tapas

What to drink?

Alongside teapots filled with steaming Chinese tea, Barshu has a selection of wines, champagne, prosecco beers, beers (Tiger or Tsing Tao), sake and Chinese liquor like Moutai, Wuliangye and Erguotou on the menu. There’s also a neat choice of cocktails, including fragrant lychee daiquiris, chamomile negronis and mango bellinis.

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