Friday, 9 July 2010

Chilli Cool, Kings Cross / Bloomsbury

To say Chilli Cool is a no-frills restaurant is something of an understatement. But then, the aftermath of eating Sichuanese food over a white table cloth would just be humiliating.  This is a place to load up a big table with friends, feast messily on plates of spicy, chilli laden food and wash it all down happily with a beer or three. And watch out for the oil slicked floors.

First things first. The crispy pig's intestine. This dish has won the adoration of many a trusted food blogger and I wanted to love it too. It wasn't to be. Fried slivers of intestine, mixed with bright peppers, silken spring onion and gleaming lashings of chilli was a pretty picture of Sichuan goodness - but like an angelic looking child smiling sweetly on a sunny day, before breaking out into a full blooded, high pitched, screaming tanty, its looks belied the real truth, people. Slice by slice, it tasted precisely how one can only imagine a big old sweaty pig's arse would taste - after a long day at the trough. And it's a taste that not only lingers, but starts off more like a faint smell of arse, and then just when you think it's gone, it slowly creeps up on you and blows up in all its full arsey glory about 10 seconds after swallowing. A faecal creeper. Just not my thing. While I'm sure this dish is all about texture, these specimens were stiff giving way to a slightly disappointing softness, rather than living up to the crisp and chewy morsels I was expecting. However, others rave about this dish and I'm generally not a huge fan of offal so perhaps it's just me.

Nevertheless, our other selections made up for this initial disappointment and assured us of the potential within Chilli Cool's repertoire.

Dry fried green beans with pork mince and chillis were salty, tender and wrinkled like an old woman after a long bath. Not all that spicy (until I overdosed on 1 too many of the accompanying fried chillies) but lovely flavours and thoroughly enjoyable in all its simplicity.

Our whole sweet and sour sea bass delivered in black and glistening finery. Crispy flesh gave way to the moist meat of the fish which has been baked and smothered in a sticky, sweet soy based sauce topped with finely shredded strands of spring onion and fresh chilli. We were not expecting this dish to be all that spicy, and it wasn't, but a lovely, fresh option to balance out some of your meatier dishes at Chilli Cool.

Chilli Cool is good enough to go back again, next time with a table full of hungry accomplices which is the best way to sample a variety of dishes at places like this. But it's not up there at this stage with some of my favourite cheap eats, like Cay Tre (Vietnamese in Shoreditch). Nevertheless, I was impressed by the look of other plates making their way to surrounding tables, and any luke warm feelings may be more down to my menu selections than the competence of the restaurant. I remain confident there are plenty of gems still to be sampled (like the sea fragrant aubergine and the impressive looking spicy hot pots).

Expensive restaurants probably only get one chance to blow you way. However, this is a place that students go to feast. At just under £20 per head with a beer each, rice and service, it's not going to break the bank to go back and experiment with our selections at Chilli Cool again.

Chilli Cool, 15 Leigh St, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 9EW (Ph: 0207 383 313)

Chilli Cool on Urbanspoon


  1. Ah, I think I'm going to Chilli Cool next week and will think about the intestines. Fish and beans look great though!!

  2. "It slowly creeps up on you and blows up in all its full arsey glory about 10 seconds after swallowing" is simultaneously the grossest and most brilliant piece of food criticism I can remember seeing recently. Beautiful and highly entertaining to read as ever!

  3. Pigs intestines are always a bit of a gamble - even the best restaurants can sometimes not clean them very well, and then as you say, the results aren't pleasant. I can assure you that when Chilli Cool does a good pig's intestines, they are really, really good. Please don't give up on them :)

  4. I haven't had the intestines at Chilli Cool either and now I don't feel as dared to try them since everyone loved them.

    However I would go back immediately for the fish fragrant aubergine. And eat the whole dish myself with a spoon!

  5. If you don't like offal in general I'm not surprised you didn't like them. They are VERY piggy. Do try the ox tripe in chilli oil though, it's lovely.

    I'm not sure it's that much of a student place; I've seen a much older crowd there and Mumsy often picks up lunch from there too.

  6. I work around the corner from Chilli Cool I'm off there in about 5 mins for lunch. I love it here and I implore you to return.

    Try the spicy fish hotpot next time you go. It's my fave dish there. The fried chicken w/chilli & cumin is also a winner.

    Have to disagree with Lizzie, as it is very much a haunt of students from China.

  7. Very entertaining review. With tres much arse included!
    I think you should stick with Chilli Cool, it's generally superb - I especially liked the sea fragrant aubergine (which you mention, but didn't have) - you need to go back just to sample this.

  8. Catty - Hope you enjoy CC! I always love the bean dish at Sichuan restaurants.

    Hugh - Thanks for such a lovely comment - even if I did put you off your lunch (sorry 'bout that)! x

    Chris - I think I'll have to take your word for it on the intestines! Promise not to give up on CC, and I quite liked the place, but I can see that intestines are not for me!

    miss south - The aubergine sounds much more like my kind of thing! Will try it on another visit.

    Lizzie - I think it's near a university and is a bit of a student hang out since it's so cheap, but I'm sure it gets a mixed crowd.

    Mr Noodles - Your suggestions sound fab. You're coming with me next time, right?

    Dan - Why thanks, Sir! Ok, the aubergine is a definite for next time.

  9. Been to Chilli Cool only once so far (review written and languising on a hard drive) but pretty much loved it for it's great tasting but no fuss approach to food.

    We love to eat offal, but yeah sometimes the smell does get a bit strong. Will keep an eye out to try the intestines next time.

  10. I am not madly keen on tripe either but have eaten it when growing up in Brazil and Italy where it is very popular. I love Chilli Cool though, and think they make the best dan dan noodles in London, excellent fish fragrant aubergines and double cooked beef. I reviewed it last year, have been back a few times since then and was always impressed.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  11. Great write up, your intestinal descriptions have put me off ever trying them! I do love their cumin lamb skewers though.

  12. I passed on the pigs intestines when I went - not my thing - but those refried beans were delicious and I love your description of them like an old woman getting out of a bath!

  13. Wild Boar - Yep, it's definitely fuss free flavour!

    Luiz - Ok, adding the dan dans to the list.

    Gastrogeek - Thanks and sorry!

    Gourmet Chick - Those beans were lovely - I always order them when we go for Sichuanese food.

  14. Aww sorry to hear you didn't enjoy the intestines but I do understand they are not for everyone! Still in my top 2 London restaurants though; I adore the place.

  15. Helen - I think I'll stick to the other dishes in future. But glad to see Chilli Cool get some attention from the national critics this week.


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