I knew I was going to like this place when I walked in. My glasses steamed up, and one of the waitresses brought me a tissue. That's a good sign right there. I was seated, smack bang in the middle of the room, and she brought over a hotpot plate. I got excited. I should probably warn you - there is nothing fancy about this restaurant. It is probably the Chinese equivalent of a greasy spoon, and they have Tesco smart price tissue boxes on the tables rather than napkins.
We ummed and aahed over whether to have hotpot, or whether to go for a different dish from their menu - and after seeing the table behind us have their food delivered, we decided to go for the menu. It was vague in its descriptions, but we ordered well.
We decided to share some beef skewers (which actually turned out to be pork, probably a translation issue on our part), which were amazing. They were salty and spicy in a hot way, lots of spices coating them, and a slight cumin seed taste. They appear to have been slow cooked over charcoal, which made them really tender. Delicious.
I went for a hotpot soup, which was amazing. It contained a little bit of everything that you'd get if you had a hotpot - seaweed, mushrooms and fungi, glass noodles, chunks of fish, fishballs, and a generous middle dollop of glass noodles. I'd asked the waitress how hot is 'hot', and she laughed and said she'd ask for a not-so-hot version. Even though I'm a fan of heat, it was on the spicy side for me and I was glad I'd whipped out as many of the dried chillies as possible when it arrived.
I love restaurants like this - they are so much more relaxed, and provide tastier, healthier food than most of your average Chinese restaurants. I was a little alarmed to see the chef hacking into an enormous box of meat when I went to the toilet (which was as functional as the dining room), but for food this good, I can forgive the basic kitchen and bathroom areas. Strongly recommended.
Meal for two, with rice for one, a side order and soft drinks: £20-£25
27 Bread Street