Saturday, 12 September 2009

Lanzhou la mian handmade noodles (Noodle Bar) review - Cheap and good food in London's Chinatown

Zhen+Zhong+Lan+Zhou+La+Mian+Noodle+Bar+review+Leicester+Square+Niu+Nang+La+MianThe Chinese live to eat and that's one irrefutable fact, like gravity or Yauatcha offering more bang for your buck than Hakkasan. More so is that fact that finding a Chinese eatery in London's Chinatown that scores on taste, pricing and service is practically an impossibility.

Sometime back, I made a mention of Jen Cafe, which offers freshly made dumplings, being a great place to grab a bite if you are in a hurry. I'm glad to find out that, just two minutes away across Charing Cross Road, Zheng Zhong Lan Zhou La Mian Noodle Bar (loosely translated as 'authentic handmade noodles from Lan Zhou') along Cranbourn Street offers made to order handmade noodles.

I first saw a review of this on Dos Hermanos and wondered why I hadn't been there before. Anyway, after lugging my groceries from Gerrard Street, I decided to give Noodle Bar a go.

I must say that Noodle Bar doesn't inspire confidence at the first glance. Like many lesser Chinese takeaway and quick eats, there are trays of boring fried noodles with choices of chicken, pork or beef. But that's not what I went to Noodle Bar for.

Having caught a glance of the more promising noodle chef's preparatory table further into the shop with small stacks of dough on it, I stepped right in for that must where the renowned Lan Zhou handmade noodles were prepared.

Zhen+Zhong+Lan+Zhou+La+Mian+Noodle+Bar+Leicester+Square+Niu+Nang+La+MianTrue enough, I was presented with a menu with names of all the different varieties of la mian (handmade noodles) the moment I sat down. I pointed to the top item, which was the niu nang la mian (handmade noodles with beef in soup). The waitress gave me a pleasant smile and a quick nod, turned her head and gave my order to the noodle chef. There was a minor commotion as the noodle chef started to prepare the noodles proper.

I must add at that point that I couldn't help but notice that many Noodle Bar patrons unfortunately ordered the precooked fried noodles with sweet and sour pork. Please, Chinese cuisine is so much more than sweet and sour pork, and that should be the last thing you order in a shop that specialised in handmade noodles.

As the chef prepared the dough for my noodles, I asked his permission to take a photo of him in action. Not only he readily agree, he offered to give me the cue when to take the best shot. I believe it wasn't the first time he got the request. He kneaded the dough a bit, rolled it further and swung around it a bit. The whole process took less than 20 seconds when he managed to pulled fine noodles from what moments ago was still a piece of shapeless dough. He called out to me, "Now, take your picture!", which I did in an instant.


A couple of minutes later, the freshly prepared noodles was served up in a pipping hot beef broth with generous slices of beef brisket. at £6, it is definitely more worth it than the instant noodles served at Jen Cafe. The broth was richly flavoured and the small sprinkle of coriander leaves and spring onions added to the aroma. More importantly, the noodles were springly with an excellent texture.

As I was lapping up the soup and devouring the noodles, the customer sitting beside me looked at his fried noodles and whispered to his companion, "Wish I ordered that.". Well, I am sure they would for their next visit.

Address: 33 Cranbourne Street, London
Tel: 0759 0057 600
Nearest Tube station: Leicester Square

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £10 pp
Service charge: N/A
Taste: ****
Service: ***
Ambience: *
Suitable for: those who value their noodles prepared straight from dough in front of your eyes. Go for their specialty: beef or pork soup la mian (first two items of the menu).
Noodle Bar (Lan Zhou La Mian) on Urbanspoon

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Dutchie said...

I paid alot for spring onions n coriander but they r absolutely useless - no aroma at all :-(
When u described ur beef soup, I can almost taste it - that 2 extra green sprinklings I mean. The only substitue I used frequently now is the dutch celery sticks but they r just not the same !

xiaocangshu said...

A few years ago my mainland Chinese classmate recommended a Singapore Chinatown restaurant by the same name, but when we went there late morning they still hadn't opened for business. The next time I went to Chinatown I couldn't find the place. I wonder if it's still there (maybe not if I couldn't find it the second time).

C K said...

Hmm, don't quite like celery sticks, have always associated them with those quick diets. lol. But the soup was really fantastic!

Really? I wonder whether they prepare the noodles right in front of you over at the place that you mentioned. If you happen to be there again, let me know how it go. Cheers!

Porl said...

Great place for some good la-mian (pulled noodles). A lot of the other dishes - sweet n sour, rice etc - look like the usual Sino buffet junk but the stewed beef noodles I had were superb. Great stock, nice amount of chew to the noodles, generous with the beef. Decor is a bit shabby but it's a good option for a quick and cheap fill.

C K said...

I am puzzled as to why the noodle table isn't placed right in front of the shop. People would just give it a go if they actually see it from the outside.

Glad that you like the noodles. The decor? It's the food that counts here I guess.

porl said...

Hi CK. Yes good idea. They probably can't get permission to put stuff on the pavement in front of the shop. Having the noodle table at the window would help, but I guess that'd mess up the layout of the kitchen.

Anyway, I went back and had the dandan mian but couldn't recommend it. Not spicy enough and too much sesame paste for me. The beef options are still great though!

Tom Gurney said...

Thanks for the tip. My wife and i have a great time here. It was hard to pay £6 rather than the usual 10 Yuan for lanzhou noodles, but they were pretty accurate to what i had in China and was great to have it again. I love places like this that offer Chinese food from other regions, and wish there were more like them.

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Anonymous said...

I go here probably once a week - amazing food, and having lived in mainland China for 3 years it always brings back fond memories. I agree, go for the niu nan la mian in a soup, it is AMAZING.

Anonymous said...

@xiaocangshu: Lanzhou La Mian in Singapore still exists although it is not my favorite