Friday, 8 November 2019

Liu Xiaomian at the Jackalope, Marylebone

I may as well come clean - restaurant He and today's review subject weren't picked completely out of the blue. True, they were handy from the office and reasonably priced, but they were also, crucially, well-reviewed by Marina O'Loughlin in the Times, someone who has a fairly unblemished track record of recommending excellent places going all the way back to when she was the Metro's in-house critic. These days, thanks to a paywall and my own lifelong boycott of any Murdoch product (I'm from Liverpool) I only get to read the first couple of paragraphs, but it's usually enough to get the gist of the place. So thank you Marina for another lovely noodley lunch, and may one day your later paragraphs be revealed in full.

Much like He, Liu Xiomian offer a short, attractive menu of regional Chinese specialist dishes, in this case Chongqing, a sprawling province to the south east of Sichuan with whose cuisine it shares much in common - think hot, numbing soups studded with Sichuan peppercorns, and a fondness for hot pot. Your choices at their residence at the Jackalope in Marylebone (a lovely place to pub even if you're not eating) are wheat noodles, or glass noodles with either minced pork or "vegan" (not sure and don't really care), and a separate option of 10 x "numbing pork wonton". I ordered the pork noodles and wonton (spice level "hot"), because why the hell not, and was soon, via a Shake Shack style remote buzzer ordering system, rewarded with two very colourful bowls of Chonqingese loveliness.

I started with the wontons, as they felt like more of a starter. With an almost ethereally-light, silky texture they spoke of a kitchen right on the top of its dumpling game, and were so easy to eat they practically jumped down the gullet. The flavours were balanced and rewarding - a complex broth of chilli oil and spices, enough heat to clear the sinuses but enough pork for it to still be the main ingredient. Yes, they were very good, and I polished them all off in about 30 seconds.

Similarly the wheat noodles, clearly well made and with a good bounce, came topped with a generous amount of minced pork and more of that rich, hot red oily broth. Extra texture in the form of some toasted peanuts floating about amongst it all, a really nice little touch. Perhaps I didn't quite need two full bowls to myself for lunch, but I'm equally sure that just one wouldn't have been enough, so overall I think I played it quite well.

So yes, at £20 (plus £3 for a Sprite) for a noodle lunch this isn't perhaps quite as good value as He, or indeed other noodle joints in Chinatown, and as such loses a point. But even if this isn't an every day lunch spend, it's still exciting, fresh, handmade Chinese regional food, the kind of which you're unlikely to find in many (if any) other places in town, at least until they open their second branch at the Holborn Whippet, even more dangerously close to the office. Pray for me.

There we go, then, another friendly, exciting specialist Asian operation, authentic and honestly realised. God knows there's enough to be terrified of in Brexit Britain, but for as long as London remains open and welcoming to talented food people from all corners of the globe, we may as well make the most of it. I certainly bloody will.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For me personally, I think one dish from Liu Xiaomian is enough. But if I go with a friend, we would share a bowl of wonton~ Maybe that would help lower the cost. :)