I’ve been waiting for this one for what seems an age.
One of the occupational hazards of walking/driving/tangoing up -and indeed down- City Road, is playing ‘Spot the new place to fill your face’. Sat on the corner of City Road and Strathnairn Street, Chilli Basil occupies the site of the former Six Flavours and promises ‘freshly stir-fried Thai food.’
And that, as any fule kno, is A Good Thing. I’d be the last to decry the abundance of kebab-type places in the area but it can sometimes feel as if you’re waist-deep in chicken shish.
Which will probably be the title of my first album.
So Chilli Basil has the potential to be an interesting alternative to Death By Kofte (my ‘experimental’ second album).
It’s been a long week. Working daft hours, getting little sleep and feeling generally rather under the cosh have had my thoughts scurrying away to my happy place- the one where I slump over Friday’s finish line and get nostril-deep in Thai food on Chilli Basil’s second day of opening.
The interior is cosy and compact: the kitchen is open and you’d struggle to get 20 diners in at once, I’d imagine.
By chance I bumped into chef Michael last week outside Chilli Basil and so I had the chance to have a sneak preview of the menu. What strikes you is the simplicity of the menu, or the pricing. It’s not quite Burger-And-Lobster-reductive, but it’s not far off: all main courses are either £5.99 or £6.49, and most starters are within the £3-£4 band.
All food is cooked to order, and brought out as and when it is ready. (I say brought out; the kitchen’s proximity means it’s more ‘handed over the counter’.) I dare say you could stipulate differently- these are very hospitable people, here- but it suited us just fine. We were in no mood to stand on custom.
A plate of stir-fried egg noodles with chicken (£5.99) was just the ticket: snappily fresh vegetables, silky noodles,velvety chicken. I can easily imagine doing some serious damage to a plate like this on a cold dark winter’s evening, as it is brought fresh and piping hot to the table…
Three vegetarian spring rolls (£3.20) were, again, blazing hot, packed with filling and flavour, and as crisp as you’d wish.
A creamily warming – or warmingly creamy, take your pick- yellow curry with duck (a late addition to the menu) was my highlight. This is about as comforting as food can be after a long week: full of differing textures and with a sparky freshness to it that perks you up even as the sauce and the duck breast rub your shoulders, run you a bath and pour you a glass of something to take the edge off.
Tender little dumplings, flecked with spring onion and crammed with prawn and chicken, laced with sweet soy sauce (£3.50). ‘Moreish’ does them a vigorous and vicious disservice. No further comment needed.
Lastly, a very generous plate (portions are substantial here, which make the pricing even more of a positive factor) of egg fried rice with king prawns. if I was being picky I’d wish for the rice to be just a tad more ‘toothy’, but let’s not strain at it. For a daftly reasonable £5.99 this is another corker.
This is a very welcome debut on City Road. There are plenty of very decent options already on offer, but this deserves serious consideration as being among the best in the area. Chef Michael usually runs a food stall in Camden Lock, Fridays through to Sundays, and is in Cardiff for a while to ensure his family’s restaurant is set up perfectly. With a distinctive and visible location, prices this keen and food zipping with freshness like this, the hard work’s been done. A soft drink, two starters, three mains, £26 and change.
Oh, and they deliver too…
Chilli Basil: Freshly Stir-Fried Thai Food
232 City Road
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.