Saturday 20 June 2015

The Silk Road Restaurant, Camberwell Church St, South London

A simple, but very popular, eatery, the Silk Road specialises in the spicy cuisine originating from China's north-west frontier province of Xinjiang. The decor and furnishing are simple and not that comfortable - wooden benches line cramped wooden tables, but it is overshadowed by the enthralling and authentic food, which you eat with chopsticks and with plenty of napkins. Helpfully, the many noodle dishes and stews on the menu are marked with chill-peppers, signalling how strong their kick on a scale of one to three. The signature dish - the medium plate chicken (about £16 for enough for two) - is excellent. It is a huge broth containing a dozen or more pieces of chicken on the bone, chillies, potatoes, anise and garlic swimming in the juice. Once you have waded your way through the meat, the staff may add piles of chunky, tasty noodles to soak up the liquid. 

The substantial and enjoyable medium plate chicken
Another nourishing dish (about £7) is the "luxury" lamb noodles, which are very long, very chunky and very nice. They are topped with a crispy omelette and spiced with chilies and garlic. The aubergines, served with tomatoes and a sweet chilli sauce, also make for a tasty aromatic dish. Among the sides, the lamb shish kebabs (£1 a skewer) are delicious, but you probably shouldn't eat the globules of fat that alternate with the meat. The dumplings, however, can be disappointedly leaden - the shrimp variety are particularly bland and disappointing, but the beef and onion are better.  The drinks menu is very limited, but just about does the job. Although there is red and white wine, you'll need plenty of liquid to counteract the spice-induced tingling on your lips - the 330ml bottles of Tsingtao beer are a very reasonable £2.50 a pop and you can get large bottles of water for a similar price tag. Service can be a bit haphazard, but the Silk Road is both great value and very different from your standard Chinese restaurant. 8/10