Silk Road is an unassuming place on Camberwell Church Street, with more of a café vibe than that of a restaurant. Having heard reports of hour-long waits mid-week we booked as it was a Saturday, and good job as the place was absolutely packed. Good sign!
Silk Road focuses on culinary favourites from the Xinjiang province in North-West China, which demonstrates other Asian influences such as kebabs and dumplings, but with Chinese spicing – LOTS of chilli, as well as heavy cumin and star anise.
We ordered a feast, but started with the all-important skewers – all the reviews I’d read insisted on getting them and it was immediately obvious why. Small, fatty pieces of lamb on a sharp metal stick doesn’t sound like the idea appetiser, but the meat was tender and salty, crusted with cumin and chilli. The fat melts in your mouth and leaves you itching to order more, which we did. My husband lived in China for a couple of years and the smell and taste of them took him right back. We also got some of the kidney versions, also spicy and very tasty but that lamb was a winner.
Then came the food avalanche. Beef and onion fried dumplings were lovely, crispy on the fried side and fresh enough not to be chewy. Pak choi was incredibly garlicky which was nice, but a touch overdone for me. Twice-cooked pork was sweet, with slices of tender meat and lots more chilli. Another pork dish (I forget the name) was very gingery with lots of mushroom – good but the twice-cooked was better.
Reviews also say that the stew is the way to go, so we ordered the ‘middle chicken’. It was like a mini bathtub of rich, star anise-y broth with chunks of chicken on the bone, potatoes and red and green chillies bobbing around. The waiter then came and dumped a load of huge, hand-pulled belt noodles into the dish, which were heaven on their own but even better soaking up the spicy, chickeny soup.
The place is a bit chaotic, its mad-busyness testament to how good it is. For four of us sharing a few dishes with a beer each it came to about £60 – bargainous. You may well end up sharing a table and it’s loud so maybe not great for a romantic date, but if there’s a group of you and you like Chinese then get down there, share everything on the menu and enjoy.