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