North-west China meets south-east London at this friendly repository of noodles, stews and dumplings.
A pioneer of London’s trend for branching out into regional Chinese cuisines, Silk Road quietly churns out favourites from the north-west frontier province of Xinjiang.
Dishes can be fiery, but are also balanced with a plethora of spices, a legacy from the Silk Road that ran through the desert area, transporting treasures from east and west. The cuisine of Xinjiang’s Turkic Uighur Muslims, the area’s largest minority, exhibits many of the hearty traditional standbys found around Central Asia – notably kebabs and dumplings – but with a bold Chinese influence, bringing a spiciness and vibrancy its counterparts elsewhere can lack.
Silk Road’s short menu includes Sichuan-style dishes – perhaps an influence of the ethnic Han owners – but skip past these dishes to focus on the Xinjiang specialities. Small, fatty pieces of lamb crusted with ground cumin, chilli and salt and grilled on a skewer are an example. Dumplings – filled with meat or vegetables – are typical northern China staples, although here lamb dominates instead of pork. It would be a shame not to try a few.
What attracts most people to Silk Road is the noodle and stew menu. Our favourite was the ‘medium chicken’, a wonderfully rich star anise-and-chilli-flavoured broth bobbing with pieces of bird on the bone, plus potatoes. When you near the bottom of the serving bowl, and are approaching fullness, your waiter will bring a heaped pile of superb handmade noodles to dump into the aromatic broth and soak up the rest of the rich flavour.
Salads of kelp or cucumber are a refreshing nod to any health initiatives you may have embarked upon.
The small dining room is cheerful, if functional – and far more exotic than Camberwell Church Street.