Formal Chinese dining in London? Yes you TV dinner hounds, such a format exists, and we were lucky enough to visit one of the most charming examples of this in the City.
Found on the ground floor of The Crowne Plaza Hotel, you’d totally be forgiven for missing the Chinese Cricket Club if not for the warm green glow of its neon signs in the windows. As eye-grabbing as the outside can be, we obviously spent our time on the inside, which is quite the mixed bag.
In a nutshell, the main space is minimal, straight-laced and calm. The walls are haphazardly adorned with cricket memorabilia in a bid to live up to its unique namesake, while wooden tables and plush leather chairs are flanked by bamboo shoots in vases. While the space doesn't massively hark of a distinctive theme that so many Eastern restaurants boast, it's clear the Chinese Cricket Club reserve this wow factor for their dishes.
The Food & Drink
The food takes center stage at the Chinese Cricket Club, boasting one of the few Dim Sum specialty menus in The City. This can be found alongside an array of traditionally inspired Sichuan delicacies with a modern twist, whipped up by magician-in-disguise, Executive Chef Wang. We started off with a portion of Salt and Pepper Squid (£9.80) which was wonderfully fresh, exceptionally large and particularly spicy, washing them down with glass of well-chosen Valdivieso Merlot Rapel 2013, from Chile (£6.50) and a glass of Prosecco Valdobbiandene Brut Jeio (£9.50).
We followed the squid with Chicken and Spinach Dumplings (£6.80) which arrived in a traditional bamboo steamer basket. If the saying ‘you eat with your eyes first’ is true, then these dumplings are quite the experience. Remove the bamboo lid and beyond the plume of steam you’re greeted with luminous green dumplings, complete with the most adorable little red decorations adorning the top of them. They’re a small starter that packs a serious punch of flavour that I really recommend you try on your visit.
Following the starters, we opted for a tried and tested classic, Crispy Aromatic Duck (£24) which delivered handsomely on all fronts - most notably the pancakes. Anyone that’s ever ordered this from their local will know the pains of poor duck to pancake ratios but rest assured they have this issue well and truly covered here. Flush with pancakes, you can thoroughly enjoy this impressively moist-yet-crunchy duck, lathered in the tangy Hoi Sin sauce to your heart's desire.
We somehow managed to follow the duck with a Chef Wang signature dish, Country Style Beef Tenderloin (£22) that we partnered with some Brown Steamed Rice (£5) which was the real star of show. The flavours married beautifully, the salty and spiciness of the soy sauce complemented the sweetness of the asparagus sprigs while the unfathomably tender beef fell almost off the fork. The steamed rice was a great counterpart to this dish and worked well at mopping up the leftover soy sauce that was really too good to let go unused. If you manage to still have rooms after your first few courses and make it through to dessert (we didn’t!) then it looks like you’ll be in for quite the experience with oddities like Green Tea Mousse Cake (£6) and Sesame Ice Cream (£6) on offer.
The Chinese Cricket Club is very much a sit-down dinner experience for hotel guests, passers by and social club members alike and it’s more than apparent from the moment you enter. This is ideal date-location material to wow your other half without having to don the full formal get up but we’d still suggest you prepare for formal service.
The staff are fantastically helpful; you’ll certainly feel taken care of and their stellar service really helps to ease your overall visit which, especially for the inexperienced Chinese food enthusiasts, can be fairly intimidating. Chopsticks are supplied but for the unskilled, cutlery is only a request away. Being surrounded by a mish-mash of patrons helps balance the feel, which could easily slip into the terribly posh territory if not for the occasional shorts-wearing tourists to wandering in.
Packaged up in posh, formal-feeling environment it’s easy to feel like you should have worn your Sunday best but the attentive staff help to ease any concerns. Although the interior seems markedly simple, the Chinese Cricket Club provides truly exceptional Eastern cuisine and I can promise you that you’ll probably never want to touch your local takeaway again.