When a whopping great restaurant outside a tired-looking shopping centre is heaving on a Tuesday night, you know there’s something good inside. This is Sichuan Grand, which is both Sichuan and grand. The menu is vast, and is one of those ones that comes with lurid pictures and misspelled descriptions. There’s a separate one-pager of Cantonese crowd-pleasers (crispy duck, spring rolls, lemon chicken), but if this is where your fancy lies then you’re frankly in the wrong place. Stay Sichuanese. Everything we ate was terrific, but a few dishes have imprinted themselves on my brain. Like the jellyfish, which turned out to be much more than something you run away from at the beach. Pale gold and shredded into shimmering ribbons, it had memorable mouth-feel: faintly crunchy but also gelatinous, like gnawing the end of a chicken bone. Refreshingly chilled, with a black vinegar dressing, it was both delicately sharp but fiercely garlicky.
It got gutsier by degrees. There was a huge plate of dry-fried green beans showered in tiny explosions of pork mince deliciousness: it was salty, oily, and again garlicky. Gong-bao king prawns, the fat pink crustaceans mingling with toasted cashews and slices of celery, are another must. There was more garlic, in soft braised slices (do eat these), plus numbing peppercorns and handfuls of dried chillies (don’t eat these). There were moreish pork-and-fennel dumplings, the nicely chewy pasta parcels stuffed with juicy meat and languishing in a puddle of chilli oil. This time the garlic came minced and raw, in a little pile for adding to taste. If you’re about to go out and do battle with vampires, eat here first.
And if it’s value you’re after, you must order the Sichuan-style roasted duck : an enormous soupy bowl that could feed a family, each layer revealing something new: a base of skinny rice noodles, slices of lotus root, handfuls of sprouts and on top, a hunk of duck in a dozen-odd thick skin-on slices. Yours for just £12.80.
In fact, most of the portions were impossibly generous, making a night out here extremely kind to your wallet, especially if you go with a gang and get sharing. But Sichuan Grand is more than just good value: it’s surprisingly smart, too. Sure, the pale floor tiles are too shiny, giving it a slightly hard edge, but the lighting is set to medium (a rarity in traditional Chinese restaurants), the staff are exceptionally friendly (another rarity, sadly) and the room has a great vibe: the glossy dark woods and large hanging lanterns offset by a soundtrack of Chinese ballads and lively chatter. Just go soon, before the only night you can walk in for a table is a Monday.