In London’s Blackfriars, set within the Crowne Plaza Hotel, is Chinese Cricket Club. A short corridor leads you up and out of the hotel lobby – into this sophisticated, wooden floored restaurant.
With its ornamental bamboo, wall lighting and lime green bar, the decor perfectly reflects the combination of traditional Eastern elegance and contemporary Western influences. Named in honour of the Chinese National Cricket Team – who played their inaugural game in 2009 – the restaurant also features cricket bats, stumps, wickets and clothing. While this might sound more like a kit room than a restaurant, these details are delicate and, as a theme, it’s understated.
The attentive staff are incredibly well informed so expect a consultative approach. With a couple of Tsing Taos safely within arm’s reach, I decided on the soft shell crab salad to start and, on the recommendation of the maître d’, Chef Wang’s special sea bass for the main.
The soft shell crab was crunchy and plentiful, the flavours of the sauce perfectly complementing the meatiness of the crab. With far more crab than vegetable matter, this was my kind of salad. My guest had the crispy vegetarian spring rolls which, while a smaller portion, was a perfect appetiser.
The mains soon arrived and the seabass was moist, soft and beautifully cooked. The secret sauce contains ginger, garlic, mushrooms and bamboo (or so we’re told) which gives the dish a certain rustic feel.
Across the table, my guest had the sauteed prawns and scallops in XO sauce. Though difficult to get right, the scallops were perfectly cooked and the sauce was more to my taste – with a tempered kick.
For dessert, I could just about manage the smartly presented vanilla ice cream while my guest opted for the green tea mousse cake, which had a light texture and a delicately sweet flavour.
This restaurant is a great spot if you’re after elegent Sichuan dining in London. Starters, mains, sides and desserts for two with three beers each costs £125 ($160). While it might seem like something of a pilgrimage, Chinese Cricket Club is definitely worth a visit even if it’s just for the soft shell crab.