Chairman Mao braised pork was probably the only dish I could find that didn't look like a fire-bomb. Wibbly wobbly chunks of pork belly braised in a soy sauce were tender and flavoursome, chunks of spring onion freshening the dish. We could have done with the rice we ordered at this point to soak up all the sauces, but unfortunately the five of us were given one dish at a time, painfully slowly.
Dry pot tender chicken was a dish I remembered from Jay Rayner's review; chunks of chicken doused in chillis slowly bubbling under a little flame, sauce intensifying more and more as time goes on. This was rejected by half our group as the chicken was bone-in and quite fiddly - the fools! It was delicious.
Hunan-style aubergines were silky but slightly lacking in flavour. It, like most vegetable dishes, would have benefitted with the addition of some pork.
Strangest dish of the night goes to the sweetcorn cakes. I thought they would be much like the ones I make, but they appeared to be made with glutinous rice flour; they were sticky and intensely gooey. They lacked a certain something, but were quite addictive when dipped into the braised pork belly juices.
Smoked pork with home-pickled radishes was excellent. The slices of pork tasted like bacon, and the pickled radish was at once crunchy and sour. It was a salty dish which needed rice, but one unlike I've had before in Chinese cuisine.
A tofu dish with pork and cloud ear mushrooms was equally good, the spongy tofu making a great texture contrast with the slimy mushroom. There were far more dishes I wanted to try, such as steamed fish head with home-made chilli sauce and plain noodles, and steamed potato balls with chilli sauce which needs revisiting with more adventurous diners. We were disappointed with the service though; it took us ages to get anyone's attention, and when we asked for tap water we were told firmly 'still or sparkling only', which when charged at £2.40 a glass seems cruel and greedy, especially with the level of chillis applied. Still, until I can find another decent Hunanese restaurant, I'll go back.
118 - 120 Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 5EP
Tel: 020 7494 2381