George VI Bridge, Edinburgh
There are all kinds of reasons for deciding to visit an unfamiliar restaurant. It could be a friend’s recommendation; a well-timed discount offer; an enticing smell issuing from an open doorway. In the case of Sichuan House, the main motivator is my eyes. Walking along George IV Bridge to my regular writing haunt, The National Library of Scotland, I keep passing the window of the venue where I can’t fail to notice the crowds of (predominantly Chinese) customers, enthusiastically chowing down on a succession of enticingly vibrant meals. The food looks quite different from the kind of Mandarin cuisine I’m familiar with.
So, after a long and tiring drive from North Wales to Edinburgh, on an evening when neither of us feel like cooking, I suggest we might call in there and try it out. It’s around seven thirty on a bank holiday Monday when we rock up and the place is already buzzing. A charming waiter leads us to a vacant table by the window (as far as we’re aware, you can’t book in advance) and hey presto! We’re the people chowing down as passers-by gaze enviously in.
We start by sharing a plate of pork and chive dumplings, a deceptively simple meal, ten soft parcels stuffed with a delicious savoury filling and served with a bowl of black vinegar, into which said parcels can be dipped. To say that they’re delicious would be something of an understatement. They are among the best I’ve ever tasted, absolutely bursting with flavour.
For the main course, Susan chooses prawns with ginger, and that’s pretty much what arrives – a generous serving of large, juicy prawns in a glutinous savoury sauce, which includes lashings of slow cooked onions and crispy spring onions. As you might expect there’s a rich punch of ginger in there and once again, this is a perfectly executed dish.
The same can be said for my sizzling beef with chilli, tender chunks of meat in a rich sauce which features red and green peppers and again those wonderfully gloopy onions. As you’d expect the course is fiercely spiced, just enough to give that wonderful warmth at the back of the throat (and even to clear the sinuses), but not so severe that the effect becomes too overwhelming.
We also share a portion of egg fried rice and though this is entirely familiar, it’s been expertly prepared, with not a hint of greasiness about it.
Despite being right in the middle of Edinburgh’s tourist route, the food is very reasonably priced. Sichuan House may not be the venue for a lavish, family occasion, but for those seeking authentic Chinese cuisine at great value prices, this is a great place to look for it. We’ll be back – and next time, we’ll make sure we’ve left enough room for more.
4. 4 Stars