Sometimes you find yourself a bit skint towards the end of the month (or living on credit like me after a ridiculous splurge on food in NYC), and something of the cheap and cheerful side of life is in the cards. I tend to have trouble finding something that is both cheap and cheerful without it being bland and boring. Luckily, the lovely gf suggested trying out Noodle Bar near Leicester Square for something that would tantalise the tastebuds while only smacking around the wallet a little bit.
Noodle Bar, at first glance, looks just like every other cheap buffet Chinese in the area that promises very low prices with a free side of food poisoning. This is undoubtedly why I’ve always passed by without a second glance. But take a closer look and you’ll notice that the place is full of people (and yes they are mostly Asian) chowing down on steaming bowls of noodles and some delicious fresh cooked dishes. There is a noodle chef making the noodles by hand as well, something I rarely find in London restaurants. There may not be much atmosphere, but the staff are friendly and efficiently and you can fill your boots for less than a tenner. Well now, that seems worth a punt, doesn’t it?
There are more places to have a drink than you can count, so it’s choice rather than the lack of such that is the problem. If the plethora of pubs don’t seem like your thing, check out Covent Garden Cocktail Club or London Cocktail Club for a fancy drink. Prefer wine? Well just a few minutes away is Cork & Bottle, a hidden gem of a wine bar sandwiched between a kebab shop and a half off ticket stand. While the faded awning over some stairs leading below doesn’t look appealing, the sizeable list of excellent wines definitely is.
What to eat?
You can do what I do and let the more knowledgeable in the group (in my case that’s the gf) order. So we ended up with a chicken Dan-Dan soup with thin noodles (I forget the correct terms) and a fried dish of thick flat noodles with stewed beef. The thin noodles are made by hand to order by the aforementioned noodle chef and are served tender but with a bit of stretchiness. It’s a good noodle but can be hellish to share given the noodles tend to mass together. The flat noodles are made in a block and shaved off with a sharp nice which leads to an interesting texture although slightly too dense for my liking. While the Dan-Dan was nothing to brag about, the rich meaty taste of the stewed beef was incredible.
We also opted for some Ma Po Tofu (the only tofu dish I eat) which was colourful and well seasoned but lacked the heat I associate with the dish. While enjoyable, I felt that it needed that spice to really make it a stand out option. The picked beef slices are cold slices of cured well marbled beef. Tangy and salty, they were a good counterpart to the rich stewed beef and fatty soup bases.
How about drinks?
You can get a range of soft drinks, beers, and more traditional Asian drinks. I went for a glass of Aloe (served in a Styrofoam cup – they really want to keep costs down) while the gf grabbed a plum juice. Both were just what we wanted – cold and refreshing with a bit of sweetness.
Worth the dosh?
Oh hell yes. For £14 each, we ate more food than we really should have (the cycle ride home was a challenge) and got a drink to boot. Tips seemed out of the question as we were handed our change and ushered out at top speed.
It’s worth noting that the service, while friendly, is uber efficient and they do expect you to get your order in while you’re in line, eat as your food is brought to you, and get out when you are done. This isn’t a place to linger and catch up with friends – this is a place to fill up then move on.
Find Noodle Bar here
33 Cranbourne Street
London WC2H 7AD