Chilli Cool

The thing about chillis is that they are addictive. Start off eating them and the heat will be too hot to handle, but after a while your taste buds become desensitised and you need hotter and hotter chillis to get your heat fix. Maybe that was the problem when I visited Chilli Cool in Kings Cross with American in London and Londonelicious. We’ve all eaten a fair bit of chilli in our time and Chilli Cool didn’t quite deliver on the fiery heat that we expected from Sichuan cooking. The only thing really hot about our meal was the temperature inside the restaurant, it was boiling, we were soon stripping off our winter layers.

Dried fried beans
Chilli Cool is a pretty unassuming little place with the look of a typical Chinese restaurant. You know the drill – formica tables, wood panelling on the walls and a tiny kitchen hidden behind a curtain next to the toilets. We ordered some Tsing Tao beers in anticipation of a super hot meal and studied the menu which helpfully includes English translations and pictures of the meals.
We started with the gong pau chicken (£7.50) which was sweet and salty at the same time and satisfyingly crunchy thanks to all the peanuts in it. This was probably my favourite dish of the night but unfortunately I can’t say that the gong pau chicken delivered the chilli hit we were expecting. It was the same story with the dan dan noodles, slinky coils of noodles flavoured with pork and preserved vegetables. Tasty yes, hot no.
It’s not all about chilli of course so I have to admit that Chilli Cool’s dried fried beans were sensational, once again reinforcing my belief that everything (in particular vegetables) tastes better with pork. Ma po tofu (£6.80) featured silky chunks of tofu in a spicy broth that was a little more along the lines of the heat we had come to experience.
Gong pau chicken
In a great example of over ordering, eyes bigger than bellies and all that, we also managed to devour the sliced beef “Szechuan style” (£8) a great bowl of beef slices swimming in broth. The beef was a little on the fatty side for my tastes but I was happy to slurp up as much of the rich broth as possible.
The good thing about over ordering in a restaurant like Chilli Cool is that they don’t blink an eyelid when you ask for a doggie bag to cart home the leftovers. The other good thing is that even with a surfeit of food and a couple of beers each the bill came to £20 a head.
I thought Chilli Cool was great value for money but I was a bit disappointed in the heat factor, perhaps because the restaurant came with such great reviews from some people I really trust when it comes to Sichuan food like Mr Noodles. I wonder if we had eaten there with a Cantonese speaker instead of just us three gweilos the experience would have been different. In the future if I need to feed my chilli addiction I think a better option will be to head back to Bar Shu in Soho instead.
Details: 15 Leigh street, Bloomsbury, WC1H 9EW (Ph 02073 83313) Tube: Kings Cross
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve
If you are on the hunt for Sichuan cuisine try Bar Shu in Soho, if you are eating in the area you can do worse than St Pancras Grand at nearby Kings Cross station.

Chilli Cool on Urbanspoon


  1. I have a feeling that you’re rigth (though they speak Mandarin there and not Cantonese), as when I went it was so spicy we had streaming faces by the end of it – and I’ve had some chilli in my time. A shame to hear they toned it down for you.

  2. Yeah I have to agree too. We were a right mess by the end of our meal there! How disappointing.

  3. Sounds like we’ll have to revisit with Lizzie next time, no? Though the sad part is that I speak Mandarin (admittedly, I cannot read it).

    Great write-up, though I wouldn’t go back to Bar Shu. I had a couple of good Szechuan meals at Angeles in Kilburn, but now that my friends in Kilburn have moved to leafier climes in Surrey, Kilburn seems too far away.

  4. Went last night just by chance and no great heat to the food we had though we were the only non Chinese there. food was good, particularly the ox tendon, also the only dish approaching hot, but I did feel maybe there were better things to be had!

    Not as fab as Bar Shu but half the price…

  5. Shame about the lack of chilli as I can only echo what Lizzie says in that I’ve found it pretty hot when I’ve been to Chilli Cool. In terms of Soho, I’ve just posted on Red N Hot – it’s a cheaper alternative to Bar Shu although they also ‘profile’ there.

  6. Oh booooo! Chilli Cool is one of my faves, I’ve never had a bad or unspicy meal there, although not in a while. Hopefully it was a one off, although still bad form.

  7. Lizzie – We even had American in London with us and they still toned it down – disappointing
    Helen – I am jealous
    American in London – Perhaps it was because Krista and I ordered before you got there?
    Bron – Good point it is a lot cheaper and I think next time I go I will order the hot pot
    Mr Noodles – thanks for the tip I will check it out
    Niamh – I had read your glowing review as well which was why I was a bit disappointed – it was still great but just lacking in the heat factor

  8. Just back from Chilli Cool, the food was fantastic and quite hot! The Dan Dan noodles left my mouth completely numb from the sichuan pepper, and the sliced beef was very rich and spicy! I luuuv this place.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

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