Even though My Sichuan hasn't occupied the old school house in Gloucester Green for that long, several effusive reviews in national newspapers have acclaimed its authentic, spicy and slightly esoteric cuisine. I've talked to people locally who corroborated them. So perhaps we were unlucky - but we found it hard to see what the fuss was about.
I thought it was going to be better. On a Saturday evening the restaurant was buzzing (and it was hard not to notice the high proportion of Chinese diners) and the long menu ranged from standard Chinese restaurant options to sea snails and pigs' intestines cooked various different ways. Given that we weren't going to have one of the lavish several-course 'banquets', it was hard to know what to choose, and to some extent we inclined towards the dishes of which there were photographs on the menu. Between the three of us I think we had a fairly representative selection: we certainly didn't intend not to be adventurous.
Accordingly we started off with thousand-year-old eggs (£6; for the uninitiated, these are preserved eggs that turn green in the process) and some chicken dumplings (£4, I think). Now, I've always wanted to try eggs prepared that way, which admittedly means I had nothing to compare them with, but I wasn't terribly impressed: we all felt they were nothing more than 'spicy eggs with soy sauce'. But perhaps we're not sufficient connoisseurs of century eggs; we did acclaim the less esoteric starter. The dumplings had a fresh, generous, far from bland filling and the dough was pleasingly crispy.
So far, so OK. We had to wait a bit for our main courses, although this wasn't unreasonable, unlike the further ten minutes that elapsed before the rice we'd ordered to accompany our cooling food arrived. I should point out that we didn't order any vegetable side dishes as they were all priced in the £6-8 range. If anyone knows why, I'd be interested. Anyway, we had that staple duck with pancakes (£7.80), which was fine if a little dry (I think Bangkok House the other week did it better). Alongside came dishes that we thought would play to My Sichuan's strengths: Kong Bao chicken (£8.80) and salt and pepper frogs' legs (£9.80). The chicken dish was disappointingly lacking in spiciness, with a few pieces of chilli sparsely dotted through it; the sauce was mildly gloopy and, worse, the cubes of chicken had that horrible spongy texture which barely bodes well. To be fair, I did quite enjoy gnawing the meat (which appeared to be of better quality than the chicken!) off the frogs' legs, but they'd been fried in an oily batter and I'd have expected the coating to be drier and more fragrant.
This wasn't the worst meal I've had around here, but I've fared much better, and it certainly didn't live up to the press hype. Maybe we caught My Sichuan on a bad night, but I don't feel especially inclined to return and check.
Oxford OX1 2DA