Friday, 6 March 2009
My Old Place, My Old Place, 88-90 Middlesex Street, City of London E1 7EZ (Liverpool St station)
There is a restaurant called Red Chilli in Manchester which serves really spicy, red-hot chilli-filled Szechuan food. Eager to taste something similar in London, we took up a friend’s recommendation to try out My Old Place (newly opened) near Liverpool Street station. The other restaurant with the same name is the more established one in Bethnal Green.
The overall conclusion from our visit was … hmmm. While we went to the restaurant full of excitement and hungry anticipation, we left the restaurant feeling slightly deflated, smelling like we’d been in a BBQ vacuum, and holding lots of takeaway boxes. I’ll explain as we go along.
I don’t generally have qualms about restaurants which don’t put much into their decor, so long as the food is up to standard. It was quite evident that this was a newly-opened restaurant, as the carpets had the word ‘Thai Thai’ all over, and for a restaurant that serves BBQ food, there was almost no ventilation system in there.
About an hour into the meal, it was getting quite difficult to see the other diners, let alone the waitresses (2 of them, pleasantly rude). The kitchen was covered in BBQ smoke, and looked like London from the days of fog, not sure how the chefs could see what they were cooking through the fog.
That aside, the portions here are GINORMOUS. When we first sat down, I did the typical ‘Look-at-what-the-others-are-having’ routine, and wondered why each table seemed so crammed with plates. After our food arrived, we knew why. They use the largest plates I’ve ever seen, and with prices that are reasonable (perhaps even below average Chinatown prices), the portion sizes here are possibly the largest I’ve seen.
Lamb slices boiled in hot chilli oil, approximately £7.50
This was one of our favourites from the Red Chilli place up North, so we wanted to use this as a benchmark to see how good My Old Place was at the dish. It’s basically lamb slices cooked in a very spicy watery sauce, with lettuce that absorbs the sauce really well. While the meat itself was very spicy, there wasn’t much taste to the dish. All I tasted was pepper and chilli, not much salt or other flavouring. Perhaps this is typical of Szechuan food? I’m not sure.
French beans with black bean and pork mince, £7.50
The dish tasted really good, full of flavour and the black bean taste definitely held their own. Didn’t see much pork mince (if at all) in the dish but it tasted ‘full’ anyhow, if you know what I mean. Most vegetable stir fries taste bland without the addition of meat (however little) in it, in my opinion, almost like it’s not quite fully there.
I’m not sure if the beans were deep-fried before they were stir-fried, but they tasted ‘stringy’. Perhaps it’s because they weren’t very fresh, but it was kinda like, dry-stringy, almost like deep-fried seaweed in texture.
Deep-fried battered pork slices with a salt-dip (not sure how much)
This was a dish that I saw another table having, and as it looked quite nice, we ordered one. The batter was very good, crunchy and very tasty and each bite made me want more. The pork itself though, was a little bit … mushy? It tasted gooey, almost like how ‘or chien’ (oyster omelette) has that gooey texture. Perhaps this could be down to tapioca flour being used in the batter (at a guess).
Gung po chicken, £7
I asked the waitress what this was, and then halfway through, pointed at another table (the pork mentioned above) and said I’d like that instead. Perhaps it was miscommunication (me speaking very little Mandarin, her speaking very little English), but she then took it to mean that I wanted BOTH the dishes (bringing the total dishes to about 7 for 2 people) so when this dish arrived, there was quite alot of:
Me: ‘I didn’t order this’.
Them: ‘You order! You order!’
‘Me: No I didn’t order this. Did I? No, I didn’t.’
Them: ‘You order!’ (Puts plate down anyway and refused to talk anymore on this after that)
Which is why we ended up with 3 takeaway boxes, containing more than half our dinner in them on the way out.
Lamb skewer, £1 each
My bf enjoyed this as the lamb was juicy and marinated with lots of cumin. I had one piece but didn’t really like it.
Chicken wings, £0.60 each
This did what the tin said. Not much marinade, almost tasteless but definitely BBQ-ed so I had one, and took the other 2 back in the takeaway box.
The other diners looked like they were enjoying themselves (perhaps with more plates on the table than they’d preferred), and the portions are huge. It’s one of those places you’d go for a quick meal, not so much to impress anyone with. Perhaps it could be because I’m accustomed to more flavour in my food, or because the spiciness took over any flavour there was, but I won’t be putting this restaurant on the top ten list.
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