Monday, 30 March 2009
The Peninsula, Greenwich
The contrast couldn't have been greater. From a culture where there are strict rules about which parts of which animal can be eaten and when, to a part of the world where it's probably easier to list the animals, minerals and vegetables that aren't consumed in some fashion than those that are. The Chinese have an admirable, if frequently terrifyingly liberal, attitude to foodstuffs, which has been well-documented on many a "Top 10 most shocking dishes in the world" list or hysterical travelogue. Fortunately, there was no fresh duck foetus or snake blood on yesterday's menu at the Peninsula, and quite frankly even if there had been I wouldn't have known as I left all the ordering up to Lizzie of Hollow Legs, who has the twin advantage of a Chinese heritage and an absolutely astonishing appetite.
For a comprehensive and far more authoritative list of the exciting and often sublime dishes we ate at the Peninsula (along with some mouth-watering photography) I suggest you take a quick look at Helen's post at World Foodie Guide. Highlights for me included the crunchy taro croquettes which had a gloopy paste inside with a great, deep flavour, all the cheung fun which were without exception excellent coming with an impossibly silky noodle wrapping, all the steamed dumplings which were again superb, and the old favourite char sui buns which were fluffy and fresh.
As far as unusual Chinese specialities goes, we tried a plate of jellyfish which had a rather... challenging... texture (try and imagine thick rubber bands) but came in a lovely delicate sesame oil marinade. Also new to me were squares of turnip paste, which rather than tasting like something you might have with your roast beef, had a great meaty flavour and were incredibly moreish. Once we had worked our way through what felt like every savoury dish on the menu, a few desserts arrived - delicate little custard tarts, a very fresh tasting mango pudding and a lovely subtle opaque coconut jelly.
Soon after last morsel of coconut jelly had passed our lips, it was time to pay the bill, which came to an amazingly reasonable £15 each. Unsurprisingly, and in common with every other restaurant in London which has managed to combine tasty ingredients with an attractive price-point, the Peninsula was very popular, and although we managed to bag one of the last free tables at around 11:30am (they don't take bookings), by the time we left they were queuing out the door. The clientele were, at a guess, 95% Chinese, which along with a marvellously surly waiter lent the otherwise characterless room a nice air of authenticity (whatever that is these days). There's even free parking for guests. What more do you want?