Walthamstow has been stubborn. E17 is still gagging for more decent restaurants, while nearby neighbourhoods of Leyton, Leytonstone, Woodford and Wanstead are now ahead in the North-East London pecking order – so I'm instinctively pessimistic when I hear of a new Sichuan restaurant in the main drag of the market. Several visits later, and yep, it's a good 'un. After some digging I find out why – they have some some pedigree. They own The Sichuan on City Road EC1, which received raves last year from Giles Coren and Jay Rayner. Executive Chef is Zhang Xiao Zhong, originally from Chengdu, and was the Head Chef at Soho's Bar Shu in 2005, before moving to Hutong in The Shard. He has also helped Sichuan food expert Fuchsia Dunlop with her book Every Grain of Rice.
A classic Sichuan cold corn-fed chicken dish, fiery with the numbing thwack of Sichuan peppercorns and a peanutty 'special homemade sauce' is a ripper. Other highlights: Gong Bao chicken; Wontons in red chilli; Dan Dan noodles; 'Boiled Beef in Extremely Spicy Sauce' (not that palate scalding, really). The utilitarian box of a brightly lit dining room won't win any awards, but this is now on the 'once a week' list – E17 may be slow off the mark, but it's getting better.