Bar Shu is a different Chinese restaurant. Located in Soho it serves the food from the Sichuan province (southwest China) which is known for it spices and hot flavours (chilli and Sichuan pepper). Because it serves Sichuan food the menu is very different to most Chinese restaurants in London.
I came to Bar Shu for dinner with my boyfriend and my friend Odette. This is one of those restaurants that sometimes you need to book but sometimes you can get in without booking. We were going to Bar Shu on a Saturday so I thought it was safer to book and I am glad I did as the restaurant was full and they were turning away people that had not booked. The restaurant has various dining areas, basement, where we were sitting (there is a private room for a larger group as well as tables for smaller groups of people), ground floor where most of the action is and which is the most atmospheric and nicest part of the restaurant in my view and upstairs on the first floor. On the ground floor it is dark and there are beautiful red lanterns and Sichuan masks placed around the room.
The menu is divided into appetizers and then pork, seafood, beef and lamb, fish, vegetable and poultry dishes as well as street snacks and soups. The menu has a picture next to each dish, and some of them are beautiful and super appetizing, which is great as otherwise you would be really stuck with the menu as it features so many ingredients you have never heard of before. But as there is a picture, it makes your ordering easier. I absolutely loved this menu, as there were so many interesting dishes I had not seen before in Chinese restaurants. One of their signature dishes is “Boiled sea bass with sizzling chilli oil” which we had to have on this visit. There is a huge picture of this dish on one of the first pages of the menu and I have had this dish a few times in Bar Shu. The dish has tender fish and aromatic spices, and the waiter brings you a huge bowl of fish that is swimming in chillies and oil. It is not cheap (costs £28.90), but it is huge and there are 2 fish inside cut into pieces so it is enough for many people to share. We could only finish 1/3 of this dish, but Bar Shu gave me a plastic container where I could put all the fish we did not finish and the next day use it to make a fisherman’s pie, which was funky as it was so spicy from the fish. This fish dish had Sichuan peppercorns and if you bit one, your mouth would go numb, but in a strange, not felt before sort of way.
The other dishes that we ordered besides the fish were “Gong Bao chicken with peanuts” (named after a nineteenth century governor of Sichuan), once again not cheap at £11.90, but the portion was bigger than in your average Chinese restaurant. It was not spicy hot but had a very pleasant taste to it and this was the dish my boyfriend enjoyed the most. The dish had a lot of nuts and on this was much better than your average chicken with peanuts dish. I also wanted to have a vegetable dish to balance the chicken and fish out, so we ordered “Fish-fragrant aubergines” or Sumptuous braised aubergines with minced pork, which the menu said was “one of our most delicious dishes”, and I do have to agree this was a delicious vegetable dish. The aubergines were soft and so tasty with the minced pork, and also a bit spicy. The other thing that I ordered with my boyfriend was the “Traditional sour-and-hot soup”, but I did not enjoy it as much as other hot and sour soups, it had a strange taste to it which I was not too keen on. I prefer the version that Royal China does.
I had a great meal at Bar Shu, I really enjoyed the flavours and the interesting dishes, but my boyfriend did not like it. He thinks the food was “rubbish” and he did not like how unhealthy the food was, he did not like the oil with the fish and he said the food was “full of oil and sugar”. My favourite quote from him was “I know Chinese is unhealthy but that was remarkable”. So I guess if you are watching your weight and don’t like oil you won’t like this place. But if you like me love spicy and interesting food and sometimes don’t mind the method how it is made, you will love this place. Every Chinese food lover has to try Bar Shu.
Date: 11/ 01/ 14
Price for 3 people, no alcohol: I don’t know as my boyfriend paid and I forgot to look at the bill