Gourmet San is the stuff of foodie legend. World class szechuan cuisine? Check. Gritty East London location? Check. Huge portions? Check. Rock bottom prices? Check.
After a disappointing time at Polpo, it was a relief to find that budget food in London can be tasty and great value. Gourmet San is clean and simple, with service swift and as friendly as could be expected with little language in common. But the food, oh the food!
The highlight had to be the heap of crab studded with chillies and szechuan peppercorns. It was a messy business (and seemingly impossible with chopsticks), but the spicy white meat that we chewed, sucked and slurped out of the shells was worth the effort.
Old Place Sauteed Crab in Hot Spicy Sauce £12
The sauteed shredded beef was a star anise infused delight, generously sized and bursting with tongue-tingling chunks of hot green chilli.
Sauteed Shredded Beef Fillet with Hot Pepper £7
Fried Spinach in Garlic Sauce £7 (in background)
Pig tendons (a random choice) were more problematic, although what meat I could detach from the sticky lumps of bone was savoury and gelatinous. Don't attempt these with chopsticks either, especially if you're wearing a white shirt.
Pig's Tendon with Spicy Salt £7
The vegetarian dishes were also successful. We tried the tofu with chives and bean sprouts, not as spicy as some of the other dishes but very moreish. Spinach was served in the sort of pungent sauce that leaves you still garlicky 48 hours later.
Sauteed Hotbed Chives & Bean Sprouts with Dried Tofu £7
Rice never arrived, but to be honest we didn't care and left feeling well fed and looking forward to our next visit. The whole lot came in at £55 for four, including 4 beers and a pot of green tea.
261 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6AH
020 7729 8388