Tuesday 10 June 2014

A Hidden Chinese Gem: M & L, Cathedral Street, Dublin 1

I visited China a few years ago but I didn't really get to experience the food properly, mainly due to the language barrier. My best food-related memory was a visit to a huge market in Beijing where I could just point out the street food I wanted, something I couldn't do in restaurants.

A few weeks ago I craved for something spicy and saw M & L Chinese mentioned in my Twitter feed, I live close by and decided to give it a go.

M & L is located on Cathedral Street, a small street you'd probably never notice if you're not familiar with the area, just off busy O'Connell Street. M & L serves food from the Szechuan province in China, in this region the food is spicy and involves the use of lots of garlic and chilli (I love both!).

We visited on a week day, it was packed with mostly Chinese people which is always a good sign. The restaurant is spacious and bright and has Chinese touches to the decoration.

A lovely lady brought us to our table promptly and explained that they have the real Chinese menu on the first two pages and then the European Chinese menu on the rest. The menu is extensive so the best thing to do is ask for recommendations as we did. Starters include items such as spring rolls, slated spicy chicken wings or deep fried mushroom. Mains are available with plenty of different sauces and meats. It's impossible to list all the things they've got on the menu.

We ordered two Tsingtao beers which were nicely chilled and a perfect accompaniment to the spicy food that was to follow.

The waitress recommended the dumplings (€5.80), we ordered both beef and pork dumplings just to compare. They came on their bamboo steamers and were quite big, one portion would probably have been enough between the two of us.

But nevermind, they were just the best dumplings I've had in Dublin: generously filled and tasted so freshly homemade. Both meats were finely minced and mixed with onions and carrots.

Then we had the stir fried dry beef with hot and spicy sauce (€10.50). The amount of meat was substantial, the beef was quite tender and the dish full of red chili, onions and sprinkled with sesame seeds: it was fiery and flavoursome.

We also shared a portion of boiled rice.

When we also ordered a chicken dish at first I didn't really realise why the waitress said 'You love meat!' but when the dish arrived I understood why. We had the deep fried chicken with dry chili and crispy peanuts (€10.50) which was a massive portion that could have been enough for four people.

There was a mountain of small pieces of deep fried chicken with tons of red chillies, very spicy but so morish.

The food was great, colourful, fresh and wonderfully spicy, packed full of flavours but most of all very good value. The staff were helpful and efficient and the atmosphere was pleasant with a mix of families, couples and groups of friends. We ordered too much but happily brought home a doggy bag we enjoyed at home the next day.

I enjoyed my first visit so much that I returned to M & L for lunch soon after. I had a lunch menu (starter and main with rice) for only €8.80, food and service were great and I think I'm now a bit of a fan of that place.

M & L Chinese
13/14 Cathedral Street
Dublin 1

This is an independent review, I paid for my meal.