Food review: Medal-worth Chinese cooking packs a punch
It may seem strange to describe this restaurant as one of Sheffield's best-kept secrets, given we are lucky to find spare seats when we visit on a Saturday night.
As we are enveloped in the heady aroma emanating from broths bubbling away on the table tops, the buzz of chatter, punctuated by clicking chopsticks, makes it clear Golden Taste has no publicity problems.
But looking around, I wonder how many people outside the city’s sizeable Chinese community are wise to this culinary nugget tucked in beside Highfield Library, just off the main bustle of London Road’s foodie quarter.
Our ever-so-patient waitress goes to great lengths to help us navigate the extensive menu, explaining how these dishes from the mountainous province of Hunan are very different to the anglicised Cantonese cuisine to which Britons have grown accustomed.
She seems genuinely concerned about whether our puny western palates can handle these fierier, in-your-face flavours, urging us to try some relatively toned-down plates on our first visit and save the more adventurous fare like tripe, pork ear and frogs’ leg for a follow-up visit.
Our choices don’t disappoint. The smoky dried chillies, which seem to be a trademark of this cuisine, lend a potent kick without overwhelming the balance of spices.
This is a proper workout for the taste buds, with flavours deep enough to drown in.
My personal highlight is the Hunan village-style pork - deliciously tender sweet and salty slivers of belly.
The xingjiang chicken is like a chow mein with attitude, full of hearty noodles jostling with slivers of potato to soak up the rich sauce.
The seasonal vegetables swimming in a tangy sauce are satisfyingly slurpable and I was also a sucker for the spicy squid tentacles, presented in a sizzling clay pot.
The portion sizes are huge, with enough left over to feed the three of us the following night, and at £51 including rice and soft drinks it’s excellent value.
My only - very minor - quibbles were that the tentacles could perhaps have been more tender and I saw no reason why the pork rind couldn’t have been removed.
That said, I’ll definitely be back to continue my nascent education in Hunan cuisine here, where snooker superstars Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo are among the legion of fans.
Golden Taste, 279 London Rd, Sheffield S2 4NF. Tel: 0114 258 5980