Saturday, 17 August 2013

Old Town 97 (Wardour Street) - that smokey beef brisket horfun


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Old Town 97 (formerly Special Zone 1997) revamped

Address: 19 Wardour Street,
Chinatown
London W1D 6PL
Phone: 0871 971 7753
Nearest Tube station:
Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £10
Service charge: 10%
Taste: ***
Service: ***
Ambience: **
Many moons ago I tasted my first beef brisket horfun in London at Special Zone 1997 at Chinatown. It was (and is still) the best that I have come across. The flat noodles' smokey flavour was heavenly and the mere thought of it still salivates.

Back then, I noticed that it was pretty quiet even at mealtimes. Students loved it simply because it was the more affordable (£3.80 for a main) compared to the rest. But it wasn't exactly the place that you would want to bring your date. It closed down soon after despite its beef horfun. Guess there just weren't enough Londoners that grew up having the dish.

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The new menu with prices increased

It went through a massive revamp and in its place came Old Town 97. It looks fancier, almost flashy in comparison. There was even a staff standing outside greeting passers-by trying to get them in for a bite. But you know what they say about doing that - if you have to do that, the restaurant probably isn't doing too well.

It was (again) quiet when we were there on Monday evening having been turned away from a packed Flesh and Buns. After telling a pal how much I adored 1997's beef brisket horfun, she helpfully told me the new Old Town 97's is comparable.

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Beef brisket horfun

Yes, the beef brisket horfun (£6.80) retained the familiar smokey taste. The thick starchy gravy still tickled my palate. Tender beef brisket were served up in healthy chunks. Gone were the potato chunks and its portion had shrunken. It isn't an elegant dish, never said it was to begin with. It is one of those dish that you slurp up within minutes; like any starchy dish, it gets rather unpalatable when left untouched for some time. In that respect, Old Town 97 beef brisket horfun didn't disappoint.

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Salted fish fried rice with prawns

In addition to that, we went for another safe choice - salted fish fried rice. Tourists and Londoners alike tend to avoid this and go for the usual "egg fried rice". The thing is, adding salted fish does wonders to the taste; soy sauce pales in comparison.

Instead of chicken, we asked to have it with prawns. That increased the price by a quid to £8.80. That does not deviate from the fact that the main component of the dish is the salted fish bits - without which, the rice can be rather bland. Unlike some, I can actually see and taste the salted fish. The huge jumbo prawns were obviously the frozen variety. Then again, any different would be expecting too much.

I'm not sure whether the revamp did Old Town 97 any good. The prices were bumped up and they now offer a three course menu for £14, something for the tourists. The staff are making some effort though, they were all smiles and greeted us goodbye when we left. Other than that, it is really the same old 1997 in a snazzier outfit.


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