Hidden away just off the main road in London’s China Town is Maotai Kitchen. A welcome change from the Hong Kong diners and the Beijing Ducks, it offers food from Guizhou in South China to culinary travellers. According to the restaurant website it is "the only Chinese restaurant in UK specialising in the regional cuisine from Guizhou Province of China". A hidden gem in the middle of Chinatown, then?
If you can make it up on to the first floor, you should. The atmosphere is a lot cosier and quieter up there, so you can enjoy your food while taking in the decoration. Calligraphy paintings of beautiful Southern Chinese landscapes fit wonderfully into the red – and – black colour design, giving the location a fusion feel of tradition and modernity.
Overall the food was excellent. We had special South – Western beer chicken 黔西啤酒鸡, black pepper beef with chillies 杭椒煸肥牛 and the braised aubergine with shrimp and soy bean paste 顺德烧茄子。I felt the beef was a little bit too dry for my taste, though admittedly I am very picky in that area. The chicken dish was an utter revelation , since it reminded me strongly of Sichuan fish boiled in chili oil 水煮鱼 and its incredible tenderness only enforced this impression. The aubergine, as usual the toughest test for any restaurant I try, was splendid, with little pieces of mashed shrimp wedged in between it.
Food great, atmosphere great, restaurant great? Well, what I was thoroughly disappointed with at Maotai Kitchen was the service. Having showed up with a voucher it took almost ten minutes of discussion to convince them we could use it; not a great start. That might have been forgotten, if not for the waitress being completely distracted while taking our order, peaking over and chatting with a table at the other end of the restaurant. As if we needed proof that she wasn’t listening, of course she promptly brought the wrong dish.
Due to our voucher, we ended up at £40 for two people, which was good considering the great food and okay considering the service. Had we been asked to pay the full £53 though, I would have mourned the loss a lot more.
In the end, the bad service is simply something to be aware of, but I would suggest just accepting it in light of the great, out-of-the-ordinary food you get.