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Following the Chinese New Year celebrations in February, Mark Hix shares his top Chinese restaurants in and around Clerkenwell.

I vividly remember my first Chinese meal. I was 14, on the sofa taking part in my father's dinner party. We ate sweet and sour pork, spare ribs and egg-fried rice. It wasn't until I moved to London that I realised what real Chinese food was all about and, even then, in the early years I often found it thoroughly disappointing. I've now come to terms with the fact that good Chinese food isn't cheap and I'm always suspicious of those pages-long menus.

Fortunately I now have a go-to list of Chinese restaurants in East London to frequent. Here are my current favourites near EC1...

Sichuan-Folk in Spitalfields: it still has that generic, old-fashioned Chinese-restaurant interior. Like most good Sichuan restaurants, the fragrant pepper leaves your mouth tingling, but it’s a great recommendation, especially for lunch if you've had a late one the night before. Shanghai in Dalston: a converted pie-and- mash shop that has, thankfully, kept its beautiful shopfront and interior. You can eat pretty good food on the same seats and tables that once served the East End its pie and liquor. Closer to Clerkenwell, two of my other regulars are The Sichuan in Old Street and My Old Place in Spitalfields.

Last year was the Year of the Rooster, so I decided to pay homage to this great bird at Hixter Bankside, cooking it in our usual style with feet in the air but with a Chinese lacquer glaze — it was a big hit.

My friend Tom Parker Bowles and I have long been threatening to do an all-Sichuan offal feast at HIX Oyster & Chop House. Each course will focus on a different part of the animal – think pig’s offal skewers, kidneys, heart and liver, all prepared with tongue- tingling Sichuan spices. It’s not for the faint of heart, but diners are less squeamish and more adventurous than they were even five years ago. It’s all a long way from sweet and sour pork.

 

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