Chinese Laundry, Islington

I’m a fan of any restaurant that has the word “Laundry” in its name. Prior to Chinese Laundry, my like of Laundry restaurants was 100%. (Granted I’d only ever been to one restaurant with the word “Laundry” in its name before this, and it’s pretty much the best restaurant ever.) So when an offer came up on The Nudge for a prix fixe dinner for two, I jumped at the opportunity. I called up Vicky from the Bunch as she’s my go-to expert in Chinese food, and we headed over to give it a try. (One small problem: Vicky is from southern China. Apparently the food there isn’t very spicy, so she always gives me a bad time about the food we share as I lean the other way on the spice scale.)

I did make an early booking, so on arrival, the restaurant wasn’t very full. I mean we did get there right when it was opening. However, as the night went on, the place filled up quite well, and there were lots of happy diners coming in. The decor is VERY kitchy, but there was something fun and charming about it which is much better than the ridiculous hispstery wood decor found in most restaurants these days. Our server was very friendly and explained the menu to us thoroughly, and that we got a choice of one cocktail and a digestif for the end plus all the food on the menu. It seemed like a good amount of food for £25pp! We also happened to notice the return of The Fork of Shame on the table…

Vicky ordered the Drunken Concubine for her cocktail, and I ordered the Walk With Me. When our drinks arrived, Vicky’s was given to her, but mine was swiftly taken back. I had to wait a bit longer, but when they returned, I was presented with the Bamboo 43 instead. I was leaning that way at the beginning, and after our discussion I thought I would switch to the other cocktail, but I think I confused the server a bit. I just went ahead and drank it as I knew that I was interested in both of them. Plus Bamboo 43 has bubbles, and we all love bubbles! (And the drink was tasty. Not at all sweet which is great for me, with a nice bit of bitter chocolate on it as well. I was very impressed with it!) Vicky was a huge fan of hers as well, and we sipped on the cocktails while we dug into the starters: Pickled courgette and Street style carcass.

I absolutely loved both starters. The pickled courgettes were light and refreshing, and the raspberry sauce with it was sweet and tart and offset it perfectly. The chicken carcass is very interesting. It’s mostly a bunch of bones and meat to chew on that has been fried and covered in salt and sichuan peppers. (It had a 3 spice level rating on the menu!) I personally didn’t find it overly hot, and I love how sichuan peppers kind of numb your mouth to turn it into a tingling palace of numbness. It did seem a bit over salty, but I kept wanting to eat it, so I really can’t complain. Vicky did complain a bit about the spice level, but it wasn’t enough to stop her from eating. So I suppose that says something!

Our mains arrived, and they looked and smelled supurb. The lamb looked moist and succulent, and the pickled radishes around the plate really just made the whole dish pop. The tofu and clams had a dark, rich color and I was ready to just jump in and try everything. The mantou bun was a great accompaniment for everything: I wanted to dip it in the Ma Po sauce, but Vicky wanted to eat it with the lamb. The only down side was the rice. It was a bit over done and glutinous, and Vicky was not impressed: She firmly feels that if you’re in a Chinese restaurant, the rice should be perfect. But really the rice was the only downside.

I preferred the tofu and clams over the lamb, but both were absolutely delicious. The lamb melted in your mouth and the pickled radishes went perfectly. The veggies were crisp and cooked well. However, the sauce for the tofu and clams was so moreish, I just kept wanting to eat it. The clams were perfectly cooked, and went well with the spicy sauce (this only had one spice level on the menu). By the end, Vicky was giving me some extra bun to mop it up, and finally I just dug in with the serving spoon. I almost went as far to lick the bowl. (Honestly, if we had ordered some extra cocktails, I think that would have happened. I probably have zero shame.)

Finally we got dessert. It consisted of “Panda Cotta” a white pannacotta with black sesame and lemon sorbet. And a ginger cheesecake that looked amazing. I really loved both of them. The pannacotta was the less sweet of the two, and the black sesame on top was a great addition. I loved it with the sorbet, but Vicky preferred it without. It didn’t stop her from helping me eat the whole thing though. The ginger cheesecake could have had a bit lighter of a cheesecake mousse, but I love ginger so much I didn’t really care. And we definitely ate all of that too.

Finally our house-prepared digestifs arrived. Vicky went for Hawthornberry Baijiu because it reminded her of sweets she had growing up. She explained it to me, but I wasn’t exactly sure. Something about flat discs of candy that smelled exactly like the booze. I tried it, and it was a bit sweet for me as a digestif, but it would have been great paired with the dessert. Mine was definitely more digestif like, as the pine and oak are very savory and led it to more of an after dinner drink. We then decided to order some plain Baijiu to try. I really enjoyed it, but I think I might need to have a lot more to really learn to appreciate the flavor. You know?

After dinner, we checked out the regular dinner menu, and we basically decided we need to come back and try everything. Obviously with a larger group because it would be absolutely insane for two people to order the entire menu. Probably. For me, I want to try the short rib and the lobster. I also have seen the brunch menu online, and I’m going to have to come back some weekend and give it a try. It’s not one of our standard unlimited, boozy brunches, but it will have to do. Especially if the food is tasty. Chinese Laundry is definitely on my “return to” list. I’m glad to know that I’m still at 100% for liking Laundry-named restaurants.

Food: ★★★★☆
Service: ★★★★☆
Atmosphere: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★☆

Chinese Laundry
107 Upper Street, N1 1QN
http://chineselaundryroom.co.uk/

Chinese Laundry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Square Meal

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