Monday, February 16, 2009
As I was in London for the weekend, we had planned to have sunday lunch at Little Bay in Farringdon to take advantage of their current 'pay what you think it's worth' February promotion (get there while you can!). This was until we realised that in typical London fashion all underground lines to Farringdon were closed for engineering works. To save from further disappointment we decided to head towards Chinatown where we were bound to find a place for some tasty eats before I boarded the train back home.
Leong's Legends was first in our list of preferences. I have wanted to try this well-reviewed Taiwanese restaurant for quite some time, especially having experienced the real deal in Taiwan and missing the food there desperately. Looking at the menu in the window not many dishes struck me as Taiwanese but we wanted to give it a go anyway as it was also recommended by a Taiwanese friend. So in we went. The place was packed and the staff were busy. So busy that we were completely ignored for the whole time we stood there feeling like right plums. Pushing past us several times to grab whatever they were grabbing not a single member of staff made eye contact or offered "We're full right now, you will have to wait a while" including someone who appeared to be the manager. Having eaten in all sorts of Chinese places I'm quite used to abrupt or unfriendly service but I've never been blanked so rudely before. It was particularly poor and surprising especially for quite a nice looking restaurant so I'm torn between trying again in the future or not. Feeling slightly, though mainly wrongly, embarrassed off we went in search of somewhere else.
Dan dan mian
Baozi Inn was next on the 'to try' list. Specialising in Bei Jing and Sichuan dishes, was Baozi Inn to be our third time lucky? Well we managed to get fed so I guess so! We walked in to be immediately greeted and seated by the window in a 1950's China kitsch setting. Low wooden stools, exposed brick, red lanterns... it all looked quite charming but possibly a little polished for what it was trying to convey. And the plastic vegetables looked a little out of place to me and more suited to a French or Italian.
My boyfriend ordered a set meal which consisted of pork rib noodles in broth, dragon dumplings in broth and pickled cucumber salad. I went for the Northern China pork baozi and the dan dan mian which is a very traditional Sichuan noodle dish. I also ordered a glass of coke which I oddly crave with spicy foods in anticipation of the mouth-numbing noodles. While the food was generally tasty and definitely filling, as I left I couldn't help feeling that it was ultimately disappointing, too salty and over-priced. My dan dan mian was very oily and barely hot and spicy enough to warrant the breaking of my usual avoidance of fizzy drinks. Instead of the heat I was after, I was left with an uncomfortable parched feeling in my mouth which I could only put down to copious amounts of salt and MSG. They were also very sparing with the topping of pork. And while the baozi was good, it was not good enough for a return visit, or maybe I'm just too attached to their Cantonese counterparts. The cucumber was tasty with a nice refreshing crunch but I think I appreciated these more for cleansing the palate which was much needed with my dishes but not in a favourable way. Positive notes were that the ribs and broth of my boyfriend's noodles were very flavoursome and the one dish I really couldn't fault were the dragon dumplings. The broth was light and just right, and the dumpling casings were lovely and silky. I could have had more of these very easily.
Clockwise from top left: cucumber salad, dragon dumplings, pork rib noodles, dan dan mian, and my half-eaten pork baozi!
Service was quick but there was some hovering which was quite distracting at times. When we arrived, there were two other sets of diners but by the time we left, the restaurant was steadily beginning to fill up. So while I was not impressed, I may be in a minority. All in all Baozi Inn was ok but didn't live up to the hype or to the prices. I've eaten better Northern Chinese and Sichuan cuisine cooked by friends from the regions. We paid £18 for our meal including drinks.
25 Newport Court
Phone: 0207 2876877