Noodles are the focus of this week’s food column, with a visit to Lanzhou Noodle bar right in the heart of London
–Words by Neil Davey
Further to last week’s launch column, another point sprang to mind, a point that’s less about what this column is going to be, more about something I hope you never see here.
To recap the former, this column is about eating well – and at reasonable prices – as a freelancer. So, we’re talking late lunches, bargain set menus, hidden/local gems, tips, tricks and recipes to keep you fed and in credit.
As for the second point, what you’ll never see here is expertise. When it comes to food, I might be more experienced than most – with the additional belt holes to prove it – but I try and see it all as an endless learning curve. That’s partly self-preservation – I’ve seen too many times how one careless inaccurate comment can result in a social media storm – but mostly because, well, it’s the “journey” that’s the fun bit. Who wants to know everything when there’s almost always a new dish, or twist on a dish, to play with your preconceptions?
This week’s topic is noodles. If you want expertise in this field, I’ll happily point you to the excellent Mimi Aye or Lizzie “Hollow Legs” Mabbot who’ve both written excellent books on and around the subject and have undoubtedly forgotten more about noodles than I’ve ever learned. If you want a rank amateur cooing over some of the best he’s had in one of the most unlikely spots, then you’re in the right place.
Cranbourne Street is a cut through between Leicester Square and St Martin’s Lane, populated by the usual West End subjects, such as Pret, Café Nero, a couple of overpriced holes-in-the-wall for your expensive Mars Bar needs. Hell, there’s even an Aberdeen Angus Steak House on the corner.
Because of its neighbours, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Lanzhou Noodle Bar is one of those Chinese establishments that piles it high, smothers it in a sauce so orange it could be related to the President, and sells it cheap. And, to be fair, it does all of those too. But you need to venture past the Trump-hued sauce and explore Lanzhou’s unexpected USP: made to order, hand-pulled noodles.
As well as serving as a fascinating piece of culinary theatre, the results are hugely adaptable. Lanzhou produce two types of noodle, la mian (long and spaghetti-esque) and dao xiao mian (fatter and flatter), serve both in three ways – soup, dry, or fried – and topped with a variety of options, from roast duck to pigs ear or stomach, via pickled vegetable and egg, peanut sauce, sliced beef or 15 to 20 other dishes. All will comfortably fuel an afternoon of work AND will give you change from a tenner.
Lanzhou Noodle Bar
33 Cranbourne Street, London WC2H 7AD
Tel: 020 7836 4399