Celebrating National Vegetarian Week – Chinese Style

Peter Morrell is captivated by the meat free menu at Chinese Cricket Club in London’s Blackfriars

Executive Chef Ken Wang


This year National Vegetarian Week runs from 18th – 24th May and a number of restaurants have designed menus to showcase their prowess in devising  interesting, flavourful food without using meat.

I recently went to Chinese Cricket Club in London’s Blackfriars to sample their Vegetarian Week menu. The dishes have been created by the restaurant’s highly respected Executive Chef, Ken Wang. Ken has 20 year’s experience of cooking Chinese food and although his speciality is Sichuan cuisine his dishes represent styles from many partsof China.

The dining space is bright and airy with lots of natural light and the décor has an understated elegance about it. On the day I went there were plenty of other diners, which gave the room a pleasant, upbeat buzz.

I started with steamed Vegetarian Dumplings and fried Buddha’s Delight. The stuffing in the dumplings had an intense flavour, enhanced by two dips, sweet chilli and soy. The Buddha’s Delight was a mix of asparagus, egg tofu and wild mushrooms sprinkled with ground peanuts. This was a good introduction to the meal, the flavour and texture of the mushrooms being particularly pleasing.

The next course was sautéed vegetarian abalone with lettuce. The fun part was making your own wrap before biting in to a crisp, fresh salad leaf to reveal the powerful taste of the filling. Again this was a well though through dish.

The main course arrived and it was a feast, wok fried water spinach with garlic, fried aubergine in a Sichuan sweet chilli sauce, a stir fried mix of Chinese ingredients and Singapore pineapple rice.

The water spinach, a special Chinese version which included the stalks and was sweeter than the European version, I also particularly liked the aubergine in the chilli sauce, it had a taste bud tingling quality and was very satisfying.

My dish of the meal however was the stir fried mix, a combination of lotus root, water chestnuts and cashews nuts provided the crunch complemented by the subtle flavours and textures of asparagus, black mushrooms and pumpkin. This to me is the very essence of Chinese food, all the ingredients were about the same size and there was a mix for colours, flavours, tastes and textures. Underpinning all of this was the yellow rice, dotted with pieces of pineapple which gave it an uplifting tart freshness.

The finale was a generous mix of exotic fresh fruit, melon, water melon,blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. This, like all the courses, was beautifully presented.

There was a comprehensive wine list offering reds and whites from both the old and new worlds. Prices are very reasonable with a bottle starting at about £25. There was also a good range of wines by the glass, given the lightness of the food I chose a highly fashionable Picpoul, the Mas Puech Picpoul de Pinet. This had floral notes in the bouquet which developed into apples and pears on the palate and gave a long finish.

The menu is available until 24th May but if you can’t make it along by then the regular menu has a good range of vegetarian dishes like asparagus with dried garlic and salt & pepper tofu. There are also lots of treats for carnivores with dishes that are reflective of Chef Wang’s creativity, some unexpected surprises are venison, aromatic rabbit and ham from northern China. If you like more traditional Chinese food then favourites like sweet and sour chicken and Kung Pao prawns are also there.

The service was efficient and friendly, add to this the comfortable surroundings, lively ambience, excellent presentation and inventiveness of the food it was a memorable dining experience. The set vegetarian meal was also remarkably good value for money at £35 per person

If vegetarian food was always this good I could easily give up my daily fix of meat.

Chinese Cricket Club
Crowne Plaza London – The City
19 New Bridge Street
London EC4V 6DB

T: 0207 438 8051
F: 0207 438 8080
E: info@chinesecricketclub.com
W: www.chinesecricketclub.com