Saturday, 12 June 2010

Leong's Legends 3 review - Taiwanese cuisine has reached London's Bayswater Queensway


Address: 82 Queensway, Bayswater,
London W2 3RL
Tel: 020 7221 2280
Nearest Tube station: Bayswater

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £25 pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: ***
Service: ***
Ambience: ****
It was only recently that I realised that Limehouse used to be London’s Chinatown in the early 1900s. If you would take a stroll down Narrow Street that runs parallel along River Thames, you could still see some Chinese signs outside what I could only imagine used to be warehouses nearly a century ago.

Now, London’s Chinatown comprises of a couple of streets on the north of Leicester Square. While I’m surprised that there isn’t a single Chinese temple to be found in the area, numerous eateries, restaurants and groceries stores lined the streets in the vicinity. Food is never far from the Chinese mind. In my post about how people of different cultures greet each other, I suggested that it might be due to the harsh environment that the people have since grown accustomed to.

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Well, if Limehouse is the old London Chinatown, then Bayswater must be the new Chinatown. As it gets more crowded at Leicester Square, businesses began to shift their focus west. Well, I guess the fact that there is already a critical population of ethnic Chinese (from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore) who are already residing at Bayswater helps.

The supermarket at Oriental City promptly moved to Bayswater when its lease at Colindale ended. True, while Four Seasons first found its footing in Bayswater before setting up shop at Leicester Square, Leong’s Legends after saturating Chinatown diners’ appetite for Taiwanese cuisine by first opening up at Macclesfield Street before expanding to Lisle Street with Leong’s Legends Continue, it has since start up its third branch along Bayswater Queensway.

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After receiving an invite from Leong’s Legends PR firm, Wife and I took a trip down to Bayswater after work to check out the latest addition to the fast expanding Leong’s Legends brand that seems to have taken London by storm.

As if to put up a challenge to the more established Four Seasons, Leong’s Legends has opened up just next to it. Though both serve different cuisines, I suspect Leong’s Legends would do well to catch the spillover crowds from Four Seasons especially during peak weekend periods, at least for the initial period until it has built up a certain presence.

Leongs+Legend+Bayswater+Queensway

Keeping up with its Chinese inn theme, there was a unmistakable thatched roof extension on Bayswater Leong’s Legends as well. Interestingly, unlike Four Seasons and other Chinese restaurants along Queensway, there was a staff posted just outside the entrance who would occasionally smile and beckon passerbys into the restaurant – a practice that I suspect would ceased once things get going.

The interior was an improvement as well. If that was a Chinese inn, it was a much more spacious one compared to its counterparts in Chinatown. Other setting tables further apart, there were some private booths somewhere in the middle. If you were to make a reservation, I suggest that you ask for these booths.

Lawrence, the manager at Leong’s Legends 3, was all smiles when he showed us to our booth. As we have been to Leong’s Legends a couple of times, I asked for Lawrence’s recommendations. With practiced efficiency, he quickly pointed out to a couple of dishes, some of which we have never tried before.

While we were waiting for our dishes to arrive, Lawrence was making his rounds in the restaurant, making small talk with the customers and inquiring about how they find the food. Even though the rest of the staff was a tad reticent, I couldn’t fault them on service really.

The dishes soon arrive one after another. Like the typical Chinese cuisine, there is no concept of starters and main courses – they are all presented on the table as quickly as the kitchen can manage it.

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The first one to hit the table was braised pig's trotter and boiled egg with soya sauce (£7.20). Wife and I have nothing but praises for this. The trotters were evidently braised for an extended period of time as the tendons and fats tore away easily. A full flavoured dish and I would highly recommend this one if you have no problems with tucking into trotters.

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Siu loung bao (or xiao long bao) came right up next. At 8 pieces for a fiver, this could be easily a meal in itself for a small eater. Probably I was biased, but I honestly thought that I would have them at Leong’s Legend than Min Jiang. Lawrence was a bit concern when he saw us leaving the dish untouched for a couple of minutes. “You should have this while it’s warm,” he cautioned. But I could only manage that much at one time!

That said, I did notice some inconsistency in the skin thickness of siu loung bao across the Leong’s branches. I thought the ones that I had at Legends Continue had thicker skins and were as good. Anyway, if you are still clueless about how to get the most out of this dish, read how to eat siu loung bao.

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Casket (£4.80) is another dish that one should consume piping hot. While I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the starchy gravy itself (filled with chicken, peas, corn concoction), the lightly golden fried bread tasted heavenly with the gravy. Well, if you insist, that alone could be a well balanced meal by itself.

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I’m sure the Tainan steamed meat ball (£3.20) have a certain following in Taiwan itself but it just didn’t do it for me. With its accompanying sweet red sauce, its translucent skin looked like a dim sum went wrong. It didn’t help that it scalded me quite badly – the skin kept the steaming heat in a bit too efficiently.

Once you’re through through the skin, the mixture of meat cubes and mushrooms were rather uninspiring. Then again, like I said, it would probably fare better as a street fare.

Hu+yao+zhu+Leongs+Legend+Bayswater+Queensway

Hu yao zhu (£2.80) or the Taiwanese mini kebab is a much maligned dish. It started simply as a split bun with braised pork belly. Nowadays, it’s simply whatever you choose to slot into the soft white steamed bun. Leong’s Legends’ version came with a generous slice of firm braised pork belly and pickled vegetables (mei cai). What clinched the deal for me was the peanuts bits sprinkled at the inner edge of the bun, which added the extra crunch and texture to the humble dish.

This dish comes with its own fork and knife. If you aren’t too bother by it, I suggest that you hold it like a burger and eat it with your bare hands. Trust me, it would taste way better that way.

sticky+rice+Leongs+Legend+Bayswater+Queensway

The dried shrimp, scallops, mushroom and sticky rice steamed in bamboo (£4.50) was a timely dish considering that the Dumpling Festival (also known as the Dragonboat Festival or Duan Wu Jie) is just round the corner. Instead of being wrapped in banana leaves, this glutinous "sticky" rice dish came in a bamboo container. This can be rather bland, especially when Leong's Legends' sticky rice wasn't well mixed with soya sauce with its central still whitish.

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The noodles with minced pork in soup (£5.20) was a last minute decision by Wife who has got a penchant for soup noodles. While the noodles was suitably springy, I thought that the layer of oil film floating on the soup left an unpleasant aftertaste. 

With a name like Leong's Legends Continue at its Lisle Street branch, I would have thought that it would come up with a more inspiring name than Leong's Legend 3. However, though Leong's Legend 3 at Bayswater didn't exactly bring anything new onto the menu, it certainly hit the ground running with its proven track record at Chinatown.

Leong's Legend III on Urbanspoon

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5 comments:

Mr Noodles said...

Finally made it to Leong's Legends Continues the other day. It was bit of a mixed bag but I recommend the san bei ji (aka 3 cup chicken but called something else in English on the menu).

Wild Boar said...

Maybe it's our backgrounds then? Hated the Tainan dumpling too.

The London Foodie said...

I am going there in July, really looking forward to it. The mini kebab looks amazing and so does the Shanghai dumplings. Thanks for your review, will check this again before visiting it in July.

Luiz @ The London Foodie

C K said...

@Mr Noodles,
San Bei Ji? That sounds interesting. Does it literally come in three cups?

@Wild Boar,
To me, it looked like a dim sum went wrong. Just didn't work for me.

@The London Foodie,
Look out for the peanut bits in mini kebab. I thought it added that extra something to the snack. Oh, do eat the entire bun with your bare fingers! :)

Mr Noodles said...

The three cups refer to the ingredients that include a cup each of sesame oil, soy, and rice wine.

The World Cup is playing havoc with my blogging but you'll be able to see a photo sometime in July.