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15th Dec 2012 6:26pm | By Jade Bremner
Don’t come here for the decor – the no-frills wooden benches, bad purple paint job and basic crockery won’t impress your date. Somehow, though, the atmosphere is incredible.
The scene The food translates to good vibes, and a lot of happy customers, despite the sticky floors and cosy seating arrangements.
The grub If you know your Sichuan from your Yunnanese and Hunanese grub, you will love this place.
However, if you’re used to going to the local Chinese takeaway for sweet and sour pork and chicken chow mein you should come here with an open mind – and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The food is specific to the Xinjiang region in northwest China, and it will probably taste like nothing you’ve had before. Expect both Chinese and Middle Eastern influences.
Lamb skewers are dowsed with Xinjiang’s famous spicy seasoning (made with Szechuan peppercorns, chilli powder, cumin and garlic) and served traditionally, with alternating lumps of grilled meat and crispy fat.
Meanwhile, the cold, crunchy cucumber with garlic is prepared to perfection.
All dishes come in hearty sharing portions, including the spicy shredded potato, and aubergine and tomato hot pot (both are sweet, sharp and exceptionally moreish). Feeling particularly adventurous?
Dabble in a bit of shredded kelp or ox tripe, each comes in a chilli broth.
The last page of the menu veers away from Xinjiang, here you’ll find Jiaozi dumplings.
The perfectly crafted bags of deliciousness offer a break from the spice. The light egg, leek and shrimp ones are particularly good when dipped in vinegar.
Behind the bar There are only two choices of alcohol: typical Tsingtao beer (£2.50 a bottle) and red wine (£12 a bottle). Or opt for a traditional pot of Chinese tea (£1).
Bill please Cold dishes from £3; hot dishes from £6; skewers from £1; dumplings £2.50 for 10.
Verdict Excellent value, quick service and the best Xinjiang food we’ve had outside of the Middle Kingdom.
49 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR
020 7703 4832
Station | Denmark Hill