Silk Road, Camberwell

Wednesday, 3 February 2010 | |

Much has been written about Silk Road in Camberwell, recently, with reviews from firstly Jay Rayner in the Guardian and more recently a 3/5 star write-up in Time Out London. It's been on my radar for over a year now, after reading about the restaurant on the Chowhound boards, but the trip to Camberwell always put me off, rather embarrassingly. A meet-up for a 'dining club' I am involved in organising proved the perfect reason to make the simple trip to Camberwell Church St, SE5 and try out Xinjiang cuisine for the first time. With nine other diners present, there was a good opportunity to try out a range of dishes. Apologies for being rather vague with the descriptions of the items and missing out on images of a few dishes, there was so much on the table and it was hard to keep up!

Lamb shish. Tiny pieces of lamb, interspersed with cubes of lamb fat, doused with liberal helpings of cumin and chilli, barbecued until smoky and tender. At 80p a skewer (minimum order of five skewers; we got ten, one each) these are a bargain. The lamb is beautifully cooked, unforgivingly spicy and the chunks of fat baste the other pieces, whilst proving delicious to chew on by themselves. Eat them whilst they're hot though, or you'll be faced with cold lumps of flesh that are rather unpleasant.

Not pictured: Tripe shish. Similarly spiced and flavoured, but with a more beefy flavour, and a slightly more chewy consistency. The barbecuing is a success though, as the tripe is in bouncy and springy territory, avoiding the chewiness (not unlike overcooked calamari) that some find a turn-off.

Steamed dumplings. An absolutely unrivalled bargain, at £2.50 for 10. Ten! 25p each! These are freshly made, and come with a range of fillings. We ordered one of each, so 40 dumplings in total. The variants were: shrimp and egg; lamb and onion; beef; pork. I'll be honest and say that I can't remember the exact components of each one, but the lamb and onion was perhaps my favourite, though the pork dumpling was packed with sweet flavour. The skins of the dumplings were appropriately thick, with a slight chew to them and an acceptably bland flavour, especially when matched with the flavours packed within. No need for the chilli and vinegar provided.

Cold beef and chilli. I'm not sure who ordered this dish, if it was recommended by the charming and helpful waitress, but it was delicious. Thin strips of cold-cut beef (perhaps roasted) topped with chilli and vinegar. Very similar to beef jerky, but with a much better flavour and consistency.

Kelp. Not much to say here, except order it. Swimming in chilli oil, firey kelp salad which makes a perfect accompaniment to the other dishes.

Not pictured: Home style cabbage. A few of us chose this as our favourite dish of the night. Recommended by the waitress as apparently "people like it" (said with a shrug), we thought we might as well give it a try. I didn't realise cabbage could taste this good (well, unless it's used for Malfouf).

Shredded potato with chilli. At least, I believe it is known as shredded potato with chilli. Maybe they included the word 'pickled' in there, as it was doused liberally with vinegar and chopped green and red chillies. Slightly underdone potatoes, a somewhat forgettable albeit good tasting dish. Would probably forego ordering this again, although it was worth a try.

Pak choi. Cooked with garlic and chilli. Pretty nice.

Lamb noodles. Once again, I'm unsure of the correct name of this dish, but it was a great success. Handmade noodles, bit of pepper, chillies, onions (raw and cooked) and small bits of lamb in a spicy broth. The hand rolled noodles were pleasingly al dente, whilst the crunch and zing of the raw onions added to the complexion of this spicy dish. 

Not pictured: Chicken in Chilli. Literally pieces of chicken breast, chopped and fried in chillies then topped with even more chillies. Pleasantly spicy, with a good flavour and juiciness to the chunks of chicken breast.

Big Plate Chicken. What I came here to try, after hearing so much about it. Tempted to order the medium plate (one size down), I enquired with the waitress about the size of this dish. She predicted it would comfortably feed all ten of us at the table. With an eyebrow raised, I accepted with wariness. That was until a bowl big enough to bathe a one year old in was brought out, filled with spicy broth, potatoes (slightly underdone, once more), pickled Sichuan chillies, chunks of chicken on the bone and peppers. With a bit of the broth spilled on one of my fellow diners for good measure, I looked on at the bowl in awe, wondering how on earth to tackle the beast. The pieces of chicken were beautiful, though slightly awkward to eat off the bone; pan fried first and then simmered with the rest of the broth, the chunks of chicken were tender and packed with flavour. The only disappointing note of the dish was the potatoes, which could have been perhaps cut slightly smaller, so as to cook at the same time as the other components.

When we had finished off the chicken, potatoes and peppers, the waitress brought out a plate of handmade belt noodles and dunked them in the remaining broth. Slightly bland on their own, the noodles picked up the flavour of the spicy soup which lingered and proved a good finishing note to the meal.

Tsingtao beer. £2 for a 330ml bottle - unbelievably reasonable. Others had the house wine (£12 for a bottle), tea (unlimited refills) and tap water, provided on the house, of course. We decided to skip dessert, though I'm unsure if they even have a dessert section on their menu. I didn't get that far.

The meal came to £111 for the ten of us; leaving a £25 tip, the total came to £136, or £13.60 per person. Ridiculous. Through the course of the night, a lot of customers who had not booked were being turned away. Positive write ups by the countries leading food critics and listings magazine will do that to a restaurant. The secret (if there is such a thing) about this place has come out, and I urge you to give it a go. A number of buses run by very close - the 12, 36, 68 and 171. Any bus that goes down Walworth Road will take you there, in fact. Get off at Camberwell Green and walk down Camberwell Church St until you get to number 49, Silk Road. Denmark Hill rail station is about ten minutes away, and you can now use your Oyster card on it, there really is no excuse. Oh, and it is cash only, but there's a Lloyds TSB about two minutes away.

Silk Road,
49 Camberwell Church St,
Tel: 020 7703 4832

Silk Road on Urbanspoon


ginandcrumpets said...

Great post. I always end up ordering the same things when I go to Silk Road because I love them so much that I don't want to bother experimenting. Nice to read about the other options so I remember to at least try the occasional new thing. Must be time to get myself down there for a dose of chilli.

Ibzo said...

Thanks for the kind words :)
I don't think I'll order much differently the next time I go to be honest! Like you say, no need to bother experimenting when you know you love the dishes you've tried. I'll probably order a lot less though.

Have you tried the home style cabbage and the kelp? Those are two things I'd definitely recommend if you haven't chosen them before.

ginandcrumpets said...

Haven't had the kelp, normally have the cabbage. My order normally goes: lamb skewers, dumplings, big/medium plate chicken, home style cabbage, aubergine thingy, occasionally shredded potatoes. May have just talked myself into going there this weekend!

Lizzie said...

I've had my eye on this place for ages, I've just been trying to gather some friends willing to schlep it to the south from their north London abodes. Great pictures.

Ibzo said...

ginandcrumpets - I wish I tried the aubergine. Can't believe we forgot to order it. Next time! I kind of want to go again this weekend too, haha.

Lizzie - Thanks :) I live in Wembley and getting there really wasn't bad at all. About 10/15 minutes from Waterloo on the bus. Go!

Mr Noodles said...

Unbelievably good value - some of the dishes are not strictly Xinjiang but who cares when you can get 10 dumplings for £2.50 !

Ibzo said...

I did question the authenticity of some of the dishes, but they're all tasty and prepared well! Plus, ten dumplings for 250 pence, like you say. I fancy going back just to get 30 dumplings.

Helen said...

And Lizzie and I are going next week so no need to wait any longer!!

vikram said...

We had shredded offal or something (great), the prawn dumplings (perfect erm pastry? but needed more filling), pork dumplings (so juicy), kelp (wow - my fave), cabbage (yum), aubergine (too oily and the aubergine itself was tasteless) and some other stuff I don't remember. excellent value, great staff, thanks for the recommendation.

Anonymous said...

Had a huge dinner at Silk Road last night. Still a little breathless at just how good it was. The cabbage, the thick juicy noodles in that fragrant, spicy, chicken-y broth and the aubergine was insane. So tasty.

Most of all the cans of pop were 50p. In London. In this day and age. Joy!

Your review and photos are marvellous. Nice job. I'm just wondering how soon I can go back...

Iris said...

Tried the medium plate chicken, home-style cabbage and aubergine - all delicious. The prawn & egg dumplings were not that great but everything else absolutely fantastic and cheap!

AlanCM said...

"...but the trip to Camberwell always put me off" oh, come on! the overground to Denmark Hill is easy (and going to get easier) and this place is five minutes from the station. All you 'northerners' don't know what you're missing. Come on down!