Peter Morrell and his wife visit this very authentic Chinese restaurant that offers an eclectic mix of cooking styles
Seveni is located in the most unlikely of place, opposite the Imperial War Museum in Kennington, South London. It stands on a corner and its curved frontage and brightly lit facade give it the appearance of an ocean liner in the night.
Arriving at the restaurant the luxury look and feel of the exterior extended to the interior with a smart bar area and high tech sliding doors into the well laid out dining space. When we were there lots of the tables were occupied, giving the restaurant a very upbeat atmosphere.
The restaurant bills itself as a fusion of four different types of cuisine – traditional Chinese food, Dongbei (a province in North-East China) charcoal BBQ, old Beijing copper hot pot and a table charcoal BBQ. The latter means that many of the tables have an inbuilt BBQ with a pipe hanging from the ceiling to extract the fumes.
We ordered two Tsingtao beers and settled into the comfortable seats to peruse the menu. It became evident very quickly that this was a restaurant with a distinctly different set of dishes to the ubiquitous Cantonese style of cuisine.
Let’s start with the table BBQ, a minimum order of £35 for food is required, so this is suitable for a party of four or more. You can order beef, pork and chicken to cook and choose from a wide selection of skewers. As well as familiar cuts there are also Chinese delicacies like beef aorta and sliced tongue. I’ll come to the skewers in a minute. This is a fun way for a group of friends to get together and have the shared experience of cooking well spiced and flavoursome food.
We majored on the skewers but rather than cooking them ourselves let the kitchen do the heavy lifting and had them precooked over the Dongbei charcoal BBQ.
Choosing what to have was quite a culinary journey, there were regular cuts and some that were far more adventurous like chicken gizzard, beef tripe and pig’s trotter. As a country boy I am used to eating this food but my wife less so. This wasn’t a problem as there are lots of familiar things on offer even quail’s egg and rice cake.
Our final roll call was two skewers each of pork belly, prawns, squid, chicken wings, lamb, okra and chicken hearts. They were all delicious, we particularly liked the very large prawns, the meaty chicken wings and the tingling hot spicing on the pork. As a nod to the avant-garde, I persuaded my wife to try the chicken hearts, which she thoroughly enjoyed. Also of note were the okra and the lamb, a meat not seen very much in Chinese cuisine. The overarching character of the food was the delightful smokey flavour imparted by the charcoal BBQ.
We also wanted to try the stir-fried dishes, again there was a good selection which would be familiar to most people, although there was a smattering of the unusual like pig’s trotters and intestines (actually very tasty). We stuck to a well-trodden path, double-cooked sliced pork belly, mixed vegetables and egg fried rice.
The large portion of pork was excellent and served in a powerful sauce. Even the mixed vegetables had surprises and included crunchy lotus root and black fungus with its intriguing texture.
The wine list was short but comprehensive and very good value for money, with bottles ranging from £16.95 to £25.95. My wife had a glass of Anfora Bianco which had good apple and citrus aromas in the bouquet with touches of spice on the palate. The well-balanced acidity was a good match for the richness of the food. I had the Anfora Rossa, a medium-bodied wine which had red fruit aromas on the nose and light tannins in the mouth with hints of almond. The finish was fresh and fruity.
We never got as far as the copper hot pot but this is a stylised vessel keeping a sauce hot which is used to cook a potpourri of ingredients that will keep the hungry diner happy.
We had eaten a lot of food so couldn’t manage a dessert but crunchy corn kernels and deep-fried mini buns are good examples of what was available.
We really enjoyed eating at Seveni, the smart décor, lively atmosphere, the different dimension of Chinese food that we had not experienced before, and the friendly, helpful service made it a dining experience to remember.
Seveni Bar & Restaurant 柒味
82 Kennington Rd
London SE11 6NL
020 3795 9921