Anyway, as a 'welcome to South East London' for Jess, a few of us locals got together to visit Silk Road, a North Western Chinese restaurant in Camberwell. More of a cafe than a restaurant, we were seated on hard cold benches, an Arctic draft billowing through the place every time the door opened. Jumpers stayed on as we perused the menu.
A variety of boiled dumplings were on offer. Beef and onion dumplings were reminiscient of the pie variety, while pork dumplings were liberally laced with spring onion. Juices burst forth from the soft wrappers which had just the right amount of chew.
Cold dishes were made up of sliced ox tripe and shredded kelp, both in a garlicky, chilli dressing. Textures over flavours dominated here; the kelp was ever-so-slimy, the tripe bouncy.
Cumin-dusted lamb skewers were devoured at speed. Each nugget of meat is surrounded by a chunk of flabby in places, sometimes crispy, flavoursome lamb fat which as we all know has a tendency to be utterly foul when cold.
I am nothing if not predictable, and I demanded we order the 'homestyle aubergine'. I didn't come up against any resistance. Unsurprisingly this was perhaps my favourite dish of the night. Chunks of aubergine which I imagine were steamed and then peeled soaked up the flavour of the slightly sweetened mild sheen of a sauce, with added crunch from green pepper.
Billed as 'middle plate chicken' on the menu, we originally wanted to go for the big plate but were wisely warned off it by a second-timer. An enormous boat of a bowl emerged from the kitchen with the heady scent of star anise wafting after it. Lumps of chicken fell off the bone into the spiced broth. When we had fished out all the chunks of potato and chicken we could find, a plate of hand made 'belt noodles' were plonked in the bowl. Slippery, chewy, hugely satisfying and deliciously messy, I was rather surprised to find my clothes weren't splattered.
The final dish, though good, was my least favourite. Shreds of pork, carrot and more of that kelp bathed in a slightly gloopy sauce. It tasted like a very rustic version of sweet and sour, thankfully without any scary Day-Glo orange. Perhaps I was reaching full capacity at this point, though that's not to say it didn't get finished.
The meal, washed down with around 4 Tsing Taos each and complete with service, came to a mere £13 each. I felt like we were robbing them. I will be back.
49 Camberwell Church Street
London SE5 8TR
Tel: 020 7703 4832