I'm no expert in Sichuan food, but I do know that I loved every single mouthful of our meal at Chilli Cool. The food was authentic, punchy and numbing all at the same time. My research tells me that Sichuan cuisine is built around the elixir of garlic, red chillies and sichuan peppercorns which produce a numbing, tingly experience. The fact that the Chinese language can express this in one character, "麻", just goes to show that we Brits like to waffle and are missing out on an exciting sensory experience.
Lizzie took control and ordered an array of dishes for us all to share. The huge benefit of going as a group of 6 is that you get to try more food. and the fact that Lizzie knew what she was doing helped us no end. I'm sure if I had been ordering we'd have landed up with some chicken chow mein and pineapple infested sweet and sour pork.
"Sliced Pork Belly in Mashed Garlic Sauce" was soft and almost creamy in texture. It had us all playing chopstick hockey to get the last slither of garlicky flesh.
"Beef & Ox Tripe in Chilli Sauce" would have many people wondering whether they had just been brought a bowl of dog food. But the truth is that this was delicious. The tripe was soft and deeply flavoured with a big kick of chilli to keep you on your toes. It isn't for the faint of heart.
"Hot & Chilli Crispy Pork Intestine" was a revelation. The sections of intestine had been battered and deep fried in a way that made them explode with gungy porky goodness in your mouth. I was deeply fearful of these when they arrived and was delighted when I not only managed to not spit them out, but liked them so much I managed to get a second helping.
"Stir-Fried Before Stewing The Jack Bean Dry" is a bizarre name for what was essentially, beans with minced pork and enough chilli to start a world war. As delicious as they were oddly named.
Bean curd with spring onions, garlic and more than enough chilli was a triumph. I'm never quite sure about bean curd, but I am growing to like it. Especially when it is served like this.
And then what we'd all been waiting for. The famous Sichuan hotpot. This particular hotpot was full of soft grouper, Sichuan peppercorns and red chillis. It's the sort of dish that would give anyone who has a subscription to the Telegraph a heart attack. It managed to keep us all quiet for a solid 10 minutes which is quite something.
It's a cracking little restaurant that was doing a roaring trade on an otherwise innocuous Wednesday night in the back streets of Bloomsbury. I'm gagging to go back in order to introduce some friends to the addictive charms of Sichuan cooking.