Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Restaurant He, Holborn

I honestly didn't plan it this way, but this and the next post are going to be short-but-sweet companion pieces to the CoCo Ichibanya review, focussing on single-dish, or at least ultra-specialised, Asian food. It's just a byproduct of the way I've been eating out recently - I spot an interesting development on Twitter, or mention in a national review, realise it's only a short walk or hop on the tube from work, and pootle on over there for a weekday lunch. I like to eat early, and so a midday lunch not only satisfies my compulsion to run my daily schedule a good hour and a half before the rest of the city, but also helps beat the queues at the more popular places. See? Win-win.

Anyway, the minimally-named He restaurant on Red Lion Street is apparently a Jiangnanese restaurant, and if all I knew about it before I went was that it was Fuschia Dunlop's favourite cuisine, well, that's only because she's the first result on Google for 'Jiangnanese'. Jiangnan is a province that includes the mega-metropolis Shanghai, so is hardly some rural backwater, and yet even in London, increasingly quite good at regional specialisation, this appears to the only (again, thank you Google) Jiangnanese specialist in the whole of the city.

But there's very little point into going into any more detail on the complexities of Jiangnan, mainly because I know bugger all about it, but also because I went to He just to try their £12 business lunch, and extrapolating any grand points about the benefits of otherwise of the cuisine in general would be futile even if it was fair. So without further ado, this is said menu, served 12-3pm, Monday to Friday:

...and this is what turns up when you choose chef's kimchi, steamed egg custard, chef's vegetables and Nanjing Beef Vermicelli Soup:

Of all the bits, only the kimchi was a little disappointing, being underpowered and weirdly sweet. But the rest was great, from the silky savoury custard, piping hot with a smooth texture and lovely salty soy flavour, to the soup itself, boasting a rich clear broth and plenty of bits of beef (and tendon!) and lots of noodles. Even the "chefs vegetables" were impressive, bright green florets of al-dente broccoli glistening in a salty oyster (I think) sauce, even if the presentation was a bit like a TV dinner.

Look, there's really not much more to say than that, but none of you really came here for detail, did you. I liked He a lot, and given it's about 5 minutes' walk from the office I can see myself making regular use of it. It's a nicely designed room as well, with whitewashed brick walls and nicely spaced tables, and very friendly and helpful service who get an extra point for dealing with the utter arsehole suit in the window who complained when they wouldn't let him swap in a much more expensive main into the lunch menu and still pay £12. That's not how this works, mate. I hope you choke on your vermicelli.

I don't know what we have to thank for the sudden proliferation of interesting Chinese restaurants in town - a sudden proliferation of Chinese students, probably, judging by most of my dining companions that lunchtime - but I'm absolutely delighted it's happening and absolutely determined to make the most of it. To complete this little trilogy, then, in the next few days I'll tell you about another little gem. Isn't this fun?



CGibbs said...

I am rather disappointed that you did not order refreshing turnip peel, as I would love to know what that looks like, and whether or nit it was actually refreshing.

S L said...

I echo the sentiment on refreshing turnip peel. Next visit? :) Also Japan and China are not part of SE Asia...

Chris Pople said...

I'll definitely go back, and definitely order the turnip peel.

S L: I've changed it to Asian, hope that's more correct!