In a nutshell
Quirky new opening brings authentic North Chinese cooking to Islington.
The evening menu we tried is split into different sections including ‘Street bites’, ‘House specials’ and ‘80s family plates’. Our waiter explained that this last section was an attempt by the owners to recreate the family-style food that they grew up eating in Beijing. Tofu, preserves and pickles that appear in dishes are all house-made.
There is also a breakfast and brunch menu (the tofu is made daily so it can be served as sweet or savoury tofu curd as part of the breakfast menu).
What’s the room like
Antique fern print wallpaper, bevelled glass mirrors, mis-matched furniture and retro light fittings are all crammed into the cosy, softly lit dining space. The tables are quite small so we had to juggle a few plates and drinks but it just added to the casual, slightly ramshackle atmosphere.
The service was incredibly friendly and informative so we were able to order quite unfamiliar dishes with confidence.
The Sweet basil chicken popcorn was a revelation – we expected small little nuggets of chicken but the pieces that arrived were big juicy chunks of thigh, heavy on the 5 spice and with a crunchy coating and a topping of crisp fried sweet basil leaves. The Smashed cucumber was heavily dressed with soy and sesame and chilli and managed to be both refreshing and mouth tingling.
Manchurian lamb had been cooked twice, first slow braised in soya bean paste and spices then fried until crisp on the edges and meltingly tender inside. Ma la lobster tail on bing was an incredibly juicy, meaty lobster tail in Ma la spicy sauce a flour explosion which contained over 20 ingredients including shrimp, shiitake, chorizo and dried scallop. A Mantou steamed bun ordered as an accompaniment was a soft and pillowy delight.
The cocktail list is based entirely on Baijiu, a potent Chinese spirit distilled from fermented sorghum. 9 different types of Baijiu are available straight up or the house blend forms the basis of cocktails such as the Drunken Concubine, a refreshing long mix of lychee liqueur, jasmine tea, cucumber and mint.
The wine list is short and well priced with a very good Picpoul de Pinet and Sangiovese as the house red and white.
Quirky, fun and super-friendly, Chinese Laundry is a great place to spend an evening digging into some authentic North Chinese cooking and working your way through the inventive cocktail list.
107 Upper St
London N1 1QN
Written by Janine Ratcliffe, July 2016
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