Rows of burnished ducks, bright red racks of pork and squid the colour of saffron swinging on hooks. That’s what I think about when I think about Cantonese food. Barbecued meats layered on mounds of steaming rice, choi sum and the sharp tangy reek of Anglo Chinese sweet and sour pork.
All of which is, of course, a very Anglocentric view. I should perhaps cast my mind’s eye further east Gunagzhou or Hong Kong’s spectacular dim sum and seafood. But somehow “Canton” has become associated with British Chinese food, rather than that of SW China.
The moist and toothsome duck
And so Goldmine was something of a revelation. Sure there was the famous duck and some superb pork belly. But these bore as much resemblance to the duck and pork of my memories as Tesco dim sum do to Din Tai Fung’s Xiao Long Bao.
The pork came as rough cubes of layered meat and luscious fat topped with wafer thin uber-crunchy crackling. We had two plates, one that had been fried as well as roasted. That last deep fried wonder was dirty food of the highest caliber, it was rich and intense. I could only eat a couple of pieces. Good thing too considering how much food there was. Duck was moist, unctuous and toothsome on its bone. But, while very good good, these were the expected dishes.
Luscious cubes of pork belly
What came next was totally different and the highlight of the meal. A steamed shrimp and soy custard that had the Cantonese speakers among us exclaiming in joy. Apparently this was proper home-style food I kept expecting a sweet flavour, but instead every mouthful was smoothly eggy with a salty soy tang and came studded with small prawns.
We also had aubergine, and some salted egg and greens. The first was oily and morish, as Chinese aubergine so often is. The dark brown salted egg, while sounding and looking aggressive, was actually subtle and creamy to taste, and complemented simple steamed greens.
There was more, far more, but none of this was the real reason for coming. What we were after was Goldmine’s fabled chilli oil. It lived up to expectation, not uber hot, but packed full of umami punch. Along with the chilli (that tasted like it may have been roasted) there was dried shrimp and other exciting – and unidentifiable – additions. It heightened the flavour of everything.
The meal was a joy, full of unexpected, simple and delicious dishes. Lots of new of textures as well as flavours, and gently tasty as opposed to the DEFCON 5 approach of many Sichuan and Hunanese joints. It’s somewhere to go with a group because these dishes ain’t small, and you’ll want a decent spread of food to try.
Goldmine, 102 Queensway, London, W2 3RR, Tel: 020 7792 8331
<i>Edited to clarify what dish I though was deliciously dirty – 20/03/2012 – 13:55</i>