It's Chilli Out There
I like spicy food. Mrs L often panics that her (lovely) chicken noodle soups lack flavour because of the amount of chilli oil I typically add. It's really not a reflection on her comforting suppers, it's purely down to my increasing addiction for the smoky heat which happens to go so well with this kind of soup. So, when my mate Ryder suggested a Friday night hitting one of Chinatown's Szechuan offerings, I leaped at the chance.
Much has been written about the nature of the burn, the buzz it engenders, the endorphins it releases. I just know I like the flavour as much as I like the eye-popping "oof" noises the spiciest foods generate. Saying that, I damn near met my match that night.
The chosen destination was the New China Restaurant on Gerrard Street, a restaurant that made up in spice what it lacked in terms of originality. It was a fine selection, for a number of reasons. First of all, when it used to be a grotty pub, the Dive Bar below it used to be one of my favourite London haunts. Secondly, we found them to be helpful, friendly, generous - for some reason we got comped a bottle of wine - and mildly supportive as we attempted to drain a bullfrog soup that was approximately one third chilli oil and about 25% Szechuan tongue-fizzing peppers. For a good 10 minutes, I was suffering, a sensation I've not experienced for a good 20 years since an ex- introduced me to the joys of the jalapeno.
But then, as is so often the case, the body - or the mind, or the metabolism, or something - relaxes and oral calm is restored. That sort of "oof" seems entirely natural and the resulting physical effects are oddly pleasurable. We didn't finish the soup, but that was down to the sheer quantity rather than the residual heat and, very probably, the highly enjoyable plate of chilli beef we were also attempting to clear.
It was the soup though that was the winner for me, particularly with the tender and slightly sweet (and yes chicken-like) joys of the frogs' legs. Aside from a slightly sore head the following day, there were now lingering after effects. Saying that, neither of us actually remember leaving the restaurant - but we've written that off as a reaction between the chilli and the entirely reasonable quantity of alcohol consumed...
Fleece by Decathalon, £27.99. Sweat, model's own.