I'm not going to beat around the bush. Guyi Hunan is renowned as the best Hunan restaurant in Shanghai. Of course, they don't take reservations, the service is terrible and the bathrooms stink but there are a couple of nice chandeliers!

"Blue Girl Beer" selling girls in blue uniforms circulate the bar like fire marshalls; dousing overheating gusts as they tuck into China's spiciest cuisine - da mala. Through ringing ears I was informed that whilst Sichuan (also a spice toting province) has the tingly-numbing 'ma' spice, Hunan brings the 'la' heat.

My take on the quality of Guyi is that whilst it is certainly hot - I could still actually taste the other flavours(!). There's normally a bravado to wolfing down spice with a grimace but here offers a more refined sensation. I don't yet have the 'nose' for heat but the line outside says they've got something right.

Unfortunately there are no evocative titles on a Chinese menu; cold spicy chicken appetizer, spicy bream, spicy beef in soup with flat noodles and a jin (500g) of prawns on sticks is as good as you're going to get and all delicious.

After plenty of brow mopping and being extinguished in beer the banana fritters that require a frantic team effort to separate before the glucose welds them together was a great cool-down. Good, local, resonably priced - yes.

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