Try plump steamed dumplings and chilli smothered noodles at the unassuming family run Chinese, Silk Road.
“Cash only” signs decorate the walls, with communal wooden benches, stark lighting and hanging Chinese lanterns adding character to the rest of the small, narrow restaurant. Albeit, it’s not the most luxurious of settings for a dinner date, but the stripped back practicality of Silk Road only adds to its buzzing atmosphere.
Located unassumingly on Camberwell Road, the smell of rich spices and spicy chilli hits you as soon as you walk into the restaurant. The sound of noodles sizzling provides the soundtrack for the queue of customers patiently waiting for a table at 9pm on a Wednesday evening.
Even the most popular of joints would struggle to stay packed so late on a weekday, but not Silk Road. Raved about by locals since it opened, the restaurant has increased in popularity since awarded the Observer Best Cheap Eats Award in 2014. Despite growing acclaim, it remains a pleasantly affordable family run affair, allowing you to enjoy a meal for two for around £20.
The menu, written in Mandarin with English translations, offers Sichuan-style dishes inspired by North Western Chinese Xinjiang specialities. Among the delights are plump steamed shrimp and leek dumplings, spicy chilli broths and garlicky, delightfully glutinous noodles, or 面条, all made on site. From our table, we can see the team of chefs working hard in the kitchen, serving up the food in large share bowls to provide a soul warming communal dining experience. The hot and sour shredded potato sounds rather unappealing on the plastic covered menu, but is decadently rich in flavour upon arrival, doused in just the right amount of fresh chilli and Chinese vinegar.
This, in itself, epitomises just what is so unique about Silk Road. The restaurant is quietly unassuming, the staff to the point and the descriptions of the dishes basic, to say the least. But the food is fantastic, proving that as nice as extravagance can be, it is far from necessary. Couples sit on school dining room style benches elbow-to-elbow with businessmen in crisp suits, and groups of University friends shoulder-to-shoulder with work colleagues, all enjoying honest and authentic Chinese food.
Although basic upon first impression, this simplicity only adds to Silk Roads charm. Take a trip to Camberwell to try one of the only genuine tastes of traditional Chinese delicacy in London.
49 Camberwell Church Road, Camberwell, London, SE5 8TR.
(020) 7703 4832