What: A relatively upmarket new Sichuanese restaurant in Pimlico. On the former site of Loong Men Ke Zhan, the Dragon Inn Club is a cavernous affair with a “casual dining zone” on the ground floor and several dining areas and no fewer than eight private booths within its much larger basement. In its previous incarnation the restaurant was apparently popular with Chinese diners, but its new owner is hoping to broaden its appeal with a revised food offer, better wine and a focus on cocktails.
Who: Hong Kong-born restaurateur Andrew Hung. He also runs two adjacent restaurants in Edgware; well-known Cantonese Jun Ming and Di Princi, which as the name suggests is Italian. The head chef is Sichuan-born Qing Song Fan and the general manager is Diego Martinelli (Soho House, Ricker Restaurants).
The vibe: Themed. The look is designed to evoke 8th century China. For those readers that aren’t Chinese history buffs that means a forest’s worth of rustic wood panelling, dragons, red lanterns and plenty of bamboo. The majority of the furniture and artifacts have apparently been shipped over from China. The upstairs has an open kitchen - not a common sight in a Chinese restaurant - and the downstairs has a dark, late-night vibe. The staff are smartly dressed; suits for the men and bright red cocktail dresses for the women.
The food: Billed as a modern take on Sichuan cooking, the menu sees Sichuanese classics such as mapo tofu, twice-cooked pork and chicken dry-fried with huge quantities of chilli and numbing Sichuan peppers jostle for position with more contemporary fare including prawn ravioli with chilli; and pumpkin chips coated in egg yolk. There are number of none-Sichuanese crowd pleasers too including Peking duck and sweet and sour chicken with pineapple. The restaurant also offers Sichuan-style DIY hot pots.
And another thing: Chinese food buffs will likely be particularly interested in the Sichuan style appetisers section of the menu. Served cold, the selection includes crisp pieces of okra with grated ginger and soy; jerky-like dried beef with chilli and sesame; and poached chicken served in a generous pool of chilli oil.
16- 18 Upper Tachbrook Street