Spice World is a Chinese chain of spicy Sichuan hot pot restaurant complete with wagyu beef wrapped Barbie dolls, robot waiters, Hello Kitty spice bombs and a deodorising machine to remove clothing odours! What better place to go for a post karaoke meal - it has to be seen to be believed.
When visiting Spice World it helps to be au fait with Chinese social media apps like We Chat because you need to use We Chat to reserve a table. I downloaded it last year but haven't used it since so I'm a bit confused but the staff are very helpful and lovely and say patiently "Don't worry, I'll help you". They tell us that there are 20 tables ahead of us this Friday night and it will be at least 30 minutes wait.
Girl Next Door is not happy. She is ravenous and the idea of a 30 minute wait is too much so she threatens to leave (her hangover makes her more difficult than usual). I persuade her to go downstairs to the night noodle markets to get something to eat. She orders a big serve of popcorn chicken while Ivy and I take a seat and survey the menu. There is also the option of booking a private room with a fairly high minimum spend that is best justified with a group of around 10 people.
Bear stock cube
The font on the drinks menu is so tiny that Ivy gets out her phone and zooms in to read it. I then go for a quick walk to see what everyone is ordering and a waitress asks if she can help me. I explain that we are trying to figure out what to order and she sits down with us and helps us fill in the forms. Honestly, they're so friendly here.
While we wait for our table, we watch a robot moving down the aisle offering everyone mints and little cans of something. Ivy takes a couple and we both assume that they are drinks. They're actually green peppercorn oil and sesame oil (we're glad we looked carefully before downing them!).
After 20 minutes we are shown to a table where there appears to be a condom on the table. Okay that's a wet towelette but they've got to know how it looks right? They ask if we'd like bibs and given we've got some scarlet coloured soup coming we all say yes. Girl Next Door struts up and down our little area with her "bikini" apron playing "I'm too sexy" from her phone. Nobody bats an eyelid.
Our tall drinks arrive. When we try and order one for Girl Next Door the girl giggles and asks us to order from a staff member as she doesn't work there which quite frankly confuses us until we realise she is just delivering the drinks from the drinks shop "The Moment" downstairs. Ivy and I ordered a matcha bubble tea, sweet and delicious and a three layer creamy mango drink that will later help temper the chilli heat.
When ordering you start with the soup-do you want a solo serve or a communal? The double soup is a yin yang bowl of your choice of two soups. The two soups we chose were the spicy soup with the lowest 1 chilli level (this is actually very spicy) and the wild mushroom broth.
We gather a range of condiments from the 20 or so strong condiment station. They range from seafood soy sauce, barbecue sauce, chilli sauces, mushroom sauce, crispy peanuts, beef mince chilli sauce, pickle grain and my favourite, the signature dry chilli.
Lamb slices on 1 metre board $25.90
A 1 metre wooden plank arrives with curled over slices of lamb. They bring out the soup with a Hello Kitty stock cube (there's also a fish, dog and bear) and pour over some hot water. Kitty floats on her back before disappearing into the soup.
Bye bye Kitty
Wagyu dressed Barbie $38.90
Then comes Barbie wrapped in wagyu, reminiscent of Lady Gaga's meat dress. We ordered this for novelty value more than anything else. Nevertheless, the wagyu is soft but it really depends on how long you cook it for (ideally 15 seconds). Or if you're like us, you lose pieces in the pot never to be seen again.
Deep fried pork belly $10.90
The deep fried pork belly sounds like it would be too much - I mean deep frying pork belly? But you know it actually isn't. It's not fatty or greasy at all, it has a dry crunch to it and it is utterly wonderful paired with the signature chilli salt which is like an addictive chilli version of chicken salt.
We dunk some of Barbie "clothes" and the lamb into the soups. The staff are very helpful and anticipatory (maybe they could sense how lost we were) and one tells us that the beef should be done in about 15 seconds. This is the same for the lamb slices too. We can't even make a dent in the lamb as it is such a large serve.
Special handmade meatballs $12.90
Then there are the meatballs. These take a bit longer but are one of my favourite items especially when cooked in the spicy soup.
We crack open the two cans of oil that Ivy got earlier-the sesame oil is fine but the green peppercorn oil seems a bit odd. We can do without these completely.
Mashed shrimp with fish roe $16.90
"What's that?" asks Ivy pointing at another table's dish. It's prawn paste and roe in bamboo sticks in a wooden bucket. Curious, we order some and it appears within minutes. They help us cook these and they put half in the mushroom soup and half in the spicy.
The spicy soup is the winner because the mix can be quite bland and I think we were hoping for some garlic or ginger in the prawn mix.
High fibre thread $5.90
I am in dire need of vegetables but Girl Next Door doesn't want these so instead I order some konyakku or high fibre noodles with zero calories. These are great dipped in the spicy soup.
Plain noodles $5.90
I had a hankering for some noodles so we order the plain 904 noodles that are a welcome carby relief. Despite being very full I love these especially when combined with the beef mince chilli condiment. I can't stop going for more of these and when I try fishing them out I discover that there's a ladle at the bottom of the bowl. "Wouldn't it be funny if there were 10 ladles at the bottom of the soup?" I ask slightly chilli drunk.
We are defeated, our tongues on fire, our tummies full. Dessert is complimentary slices of orange and watermelon from the buffet. We pay at the front and go downstairs before we realise that we have missed the deodorising machine.
Ivy and the deodorising machine
We go back upstairs to find the machine. You press a button and turn around 360° and it will spray you with a deodorising spray - apparently it's even edible!
So tell me Dear Reader, what do you think of a place like this? Does it appeal to you? Do you like cook your own places? And have you ever used a deodorising machine?
This meal was independently paid for.
405-411 Sussex St, Haymarket NSW 2000
Open 7 days 11:30am–2:30pm, 5:30–10pm
Phone: (02) 9211 1515