Dragon Inn Club
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A Sichuanese restaurant between Victoria and Pimlico.
Sometimes you just want to give a restaurant a shake, the way you would with a good girlfriend, and say ‘Stop trying to please everyone!’. Because when Dragon Inn Club sticks to its Sichuanese guns, it shines.
The traditional chilled starters were magnificent. There was a mound of tender corn-fed chicken steeped in a pool of crimson-hued oil, speckled with soapy celery, fragrant sesame and traditional ‘numbing’ peppercorns. It had sweetness and a deep, rich, saltiness; the fiery-yet-anaesthetic sensation arriving last.
Equally brilliant was the chilled melon: tight cubes of re-assembled shredded fruit scattered with passion fruit and pomegranate seeds. The perfect palate cleanser. Other warm Sichuanese dishes were also good: a shrimp-studded hot and sour seafood soup; a popcorn chicken-esque dish of tiny nuggets in a sea of roast peanuts (eat these) and dried chillies (don’t eat these). But then came mainstream, Cantonese dishes, designed for the faint of palate. From doughy battered squid to oily soft-shell crab, they were miserable.
Then there’s the vibe. You’re encouraged down to the basement, which looks a little like an Asian beach bar, all rope-tied log booths. But despite atmospheric low-lighting, the lamp for your in-table hotpot cooker shines in your eyes. The music? Monotonous beats.
Finally – though I feel mean saying this – it needs to dial back the service. Having three different staffers ask how things are every two minutes (answer: the same as two minutes ago) gets exhausting.
Dragon Inn Club: stop trying so hard. You could actually be great.
16- 18 Upper Tachbrook Street
|Price:||Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £90.|
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