“ 70-71 Wilton Road / Victoria / London / SW1V 1DE / „
I lived in China for 11 years and loved the food. Unfortunately, since coming back to the UK, it's been really hard to find a decent Chinese restaurant. Most restaurants cater more to the western taste to the detriment of authenticity and once you've had the real thing, it is difficult to put up with the rubbish most Chinese restaurants, including those in China town, come out with. Some will prepare the food as it should be, but you have to ask and ideally look Chinese. This particular restaurant, specialising in spicy Sichuan and Hunan food, is one of the few I've been to that serves up genuine dishes.
70-71 Wilton Road
Tel: 0207 828 8931
This is just walking distance from Victoria station - as you walk out of the front of the station, you will find yourself on Wilton Road.
The restaurant is on a fairly busy road, but the owners have cleverly blocked off the space in front of the restaurant from the pavement by a hedge/fence, which gives a feeling of privacy. Right next door is a Chopstix Exchange - don't go there by mistake. The one time we went, we were served with food of such frightening colours that I was worried I'd become radioactive.
This is kept simple - plain white tablecloths and wicker chairs - but everything looks clean and fresh and there is a great feeling of space. As you enter the restaurant, both sides of the room are raised, so that the diners are on a higher level than those, for example, coming in to collect takeaways. This is quite strange when sitting outside at ground level, because everyone's legs inside are at eye level. There is also a room downstairs that can be booked for private parties.
Unless the restaurant is really busy, guests are always met at the entrance with a smile and a warm welcome. Most of the staff are Chinese, all with good English skills, although a couple of waiters are obviously of a different nationality. The staff are polite, helpful and prompt. We ordered a bottle of wine, which they put in a wine cooler, but we never once had to pour a glass ourselves because one of the staff was always on hand despite having several other tables to serve.
The food and drink
I've worked my way through most of the menu in my time, but the last time that we were there, we had half an aromatic duck, which is served with pancakes, spring onion, cucumber and delicious plum sauce (it's all in the sauce); Ma Po beancurd, green beans and minced pork and bamboo shoots stir-fried with green vegetables, accompanied by plain boiled rice. Chinese duck in this country is never as fatty as it is in China - the fat, once you get used to it, is incredibly tasty and adds a real crunch to the duck - but it still tasted good to me. And was probably better for me. Folllowing that, Ma Po beancurd is a spicy dish. Ma Po means pock-marked and describes the bits of chilli and other flavourings that cover the beancurd. This often comes with pork. I really enjoyed the dish, pretty much as good as I used to get back in China - the only thing was that it contained peas - strange considering I never saw a pea the whole time I was in China! The green beans and minced pork, also a spicy dish, was delicious, well-flavoured with garlic, as was the stir-fried vegetables. All went down beautifully with plain rice and a bottle of wine.
There is a huge range of other dishes, including a good selection of vegetable dishes. For those who have difficulty choosing, there is a choice of six set menus, including one that is vegetarian.
Alcohol-wise, the bar is well-stocked and there is an excellent choice of wines, although I prefer the Tsingtao beer on the whole - Chinese food in China tends to be accompanied by beer rather than wine.
Everything is immaculate, shown off by the white tablecloths. The toilets are also beautifully clean.
This isn't the cheapest restaurant I've been to in London, but for the quality of the food, I think it is very good value. We spent £56 for both food and half a bottle of wine each. Had we not had the duck, which was £15 on its own, it would have been even cheaper.
I once had to accompany a Chinese delegation to this restaurant. Having been starved of Chinese food for a few days, they were soon tucking in here and really enjoyed it. If that is not praise, then I don't know what is. Not everything is completely authentic, but I think this is down to the availability of (or lack of) ingredients more than anything else.
Another good sign is that this restaurant had its 30th birthday last year and yet it is still going strong. I can highly recommend it for delicious food, a great atmosphere and good service. Five stars.
Kym's has placed an awning with a thick hedge of green between itself and the busy world, as if to create an oasis of greenery and calm for its guests. A Chinese restaurant specialising in Szechuan and Hunan cuisine, Kym's offers a warm welcome, an intimate atmosphere and attentive service. High praise is given to the double cooked pork and for vegetarians, the salt and pepper French bean. Massive menu made less daunting by the six set meals including vegetarian and pre-theatre. Very good wine list.