What: The relaunch of trailblazing Sichuanese restaurant Barshu. Launched in 2006, the Frith Street site was among the first restaurants in London to bring authentic, regional Chinese food to a mainstream audience. One of - if not actually the first - restaurants in the UK to specialise in authentic dishes from Sichuan province, Barshu has attracted a string of rave reviews from national critics for its premium-yet-uncompromising approach to the southwestern Chinese province’s famously-fiery cuisine. Originally launched with influential Chinese food expert and food writer Fuchsia Dunlop onboard as a consultant, Barshu is also notable for being one of the first restaurants in London to be popular with both the Chinese market and adventurous Western diners.
Who: Sichuanese-born restaurateur Shao Wei. Having made his name in and around Chinatown (notable past projects include Bashan and Baiwei), he has now extended his reach across London with his more casual BaoziInn brand.
The food: The classic Sichuanese dishes with which the restaurant made its name remain but - presumably in a bid to broaden the restaurant’s appeal - a handful of dishes from other regions of China are now offered. Yet Barshu’s menu will still be largely unfamiliar to diners whose only experience of Chinese food is that offered by Anglo-Cantonese places. Sichuan’s classics - including fish fragrant aubergines, twice-cooked pork; pock-marked old woman’s bean curd (AKA mapo tofu); and whole fish floating in an oily sea of chillies and Sichuan peppercorns - are all present and correct. New dishes include stir-fried lobster with ginger and spring onions; and salt-and-pepper soft shell crab.
The vibe: The interior has been decluttered and brightened up. Some of the ornate carved wooden dividers that were a signature of the old design remain but now jostle for attention with bright murals. While still reminiscent of the original, the 100-cover space is now more contemporary in feel.
And another thing: In another apparent bid to broaden customer base, the restaurant appears to be using fewer chillies and Sichuan peppercorns in the dishes it bills as ‘authentic spicy’, so those that want their food to be authentically hot and numbing (an addictive quality known as ma la) are advised to let the team know.
28 Frith St, London W1D 5LF