I love hand-pulled noodles (“la mian“). I love their squidginess, and the hot sauces and tasty broths that accompany them. I particularly love it when someone else makes them for me, having once tried in earnest and failed dismally (that day, we resorted to the storebought backup noodles). So I was very happy with my dear friend’s suggestion to try Zheng Zhong Lan Zhou La Mian Noodle Bar, two paces from Leicester Square tube station.
Let’s be frank here. This place is no looker, but like so many Chinese restaurants, the good ones never are!
Don’t be put off by the day-glo sweet and sour or the greasy stir fried noodles. Venture in, beyond the neon-backlit menu, to the back of this little establishment and you’ll see the ‘real’ menu…
There’s also an extensive printed menu, so we were spoilt for choice, but it was the la mian that I was there to hunt out.
I didn’t get to see the chef in action, sadly, which might have explained why there seemed to be on that night so many waiting staff hanging around : the noodles were made, they just needed people to eat up!
And so we did! We ordered the Sichuanese cold cucumber starter which arrived within minutes, accompanied by a steaming hot bowl of beef la mian in soup, followed by the stir fried flat pork noodles.
The cucumber plate was enormous and delicious. The soupy noodles were suitably squidgy with just enough bite and served with generous chunks of slow-cooked beef in a flavoursome broth. Excellent! The flat hand cut noodles were my least favourite as I found the pieces too big and stodgy, but maybe I should have eaten them when they were piping hot.
Dinner for two came to under £20 and would’ve been a quick affair had we not spent so much time chatting!
So, a great little find if you find yourself on Cranbourne Street, that odd road linking Leicester Square to Covent Garden, and in need of a quick bite. It’s not glamorous to say the least: there are two shared bench tables at the back, the walls are yellow and neon green, and decorated with comedy cartoons.
But don’t let the decor or the dodgy storefront distract you. Judging by the number of Asians who nipped in for a bite during the course of our meal, they haven’t either.
Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Good for: Quick bite
Address: Zheng Zhong Lan Zhou La Mian Noodle Bar, 33 Cranbourn Street, London, WC2H 7AD map