i cannot believe i it took me 2.5 years to discover this hidden gem right in the heart of leicester square; if i had known of it earlier, i’m sure i’d have spent many a cold night there slurping up oodles of noodles, elbow to elbow with other hungry patrons of this hole-in-the-wall…
it was a cold and rainy day and having just ticked one off the london bucket list by ice skating at somerset house, my ravenous friends and i decided that a large bowl of piping hot noodles sounded really, really good. so off to lan zhou la mian we trooped!
lan zhou la mian is not a shop i would venture into if it wasn’t recommended to me by friends – their shop window is filled with trays of (if i may say) dubious-looking extremely brightly-coloured ready-to-eat hot food (think mr wu’s chinese restaurant eat-all-you-can-buffet-style food that always makes me upset because i hate that it would make some people who don’t know any better think that that is all chinese food is about – fried spring rolls, lemon chicken and “singapore noodles” (the most offensive thing ever!!!)) and given how it is so well-located just a stone’s throw away from leicester square tube station, it appeared to me to be the type of shop that serves sub-standard chinese fare at cheap prices. we couldn’t have been more wrong though, and hurrah for that!
venture into the little shop and you will find (1) an almost 100% chinese clientele (a sure sign of its legitimacy) and (2) a chef hard at work making noodles before your very eyes! needless to say, i was ultra excited – the last time i had fresh hand-pulled noodles was about 3 months ago in sunny singapore, its taste quickly becoming a fading memory in my mind…
they have an extensive menu that includes a range of cooked dishes and cold and hot appetisers, but we were there for the noodles, and that alone left us spoilt for choice. besides all the different types of noodles they have, you can get them all soup/dry/fried, and you can choose how thick you want the noodles to be. there are countless permutations and combinations that will be made-to-order just for you:
the aforementioned friends who recommended this place highly recommended the beef noodles, so the stewed beef la mian soup is what every single one of the 4 of us opted for. the noodles took quite a while to arrive (one would expect faster service using all the other casual chinatown eating spots as benchmarks) and the waiting time was exacerbated by the fact that it was 2.30pm and we (or maybe just me) had just done the most exercise we’d done all year by skating for an hour.
words cannot express my utter delight when a huge bowl of piping hot noodles was placed before me some 15-20 minutes later:
mid-way through the monstrous bowl
we couldn’t have been happier with our huge bowls of noodles (#asiankidsforever). the broth was thick, tasty and flavourful, and the beef brisket was tender, well-seasoned and added in generous amounts. note the addictive chilli oil in the picture that was added in copious amounts for that extra spicy punch, making this bowl of soupy goodness even more satisfying than it already was on its own. as for the noodles, i was sold after taking my first bite. you could tell they were definitely freshly-made (the waiting time was warranted after all) – bouncy, springy and cooked for just the right amount of time to give it the perfect bite. i could not stop enthusing about the texture of the noodles as i made my way slowly but steadily through the huge bowl. soon it was all gone and i ain’t gonna lie, i was a little sad (as i tend to be when i have nothing left on my plate that previously contained a mountain of all things delicious).
at just £6.50, this bowl of goodness was like a warm, comforting hug on a cold winter’s day, and i will certainly jump at any chance to return. mega plus points for the fact that it opens till the wee hours of the morning (5am on saturdays?! truly a #rarespecimen in london), so this is certainly a place to visit when you’re in need of a late-night supper or desperately need to satisfy a sudden intense craving for oodles of noodles before bedtime. love me some la mian!!!
Lan Zhou La Mian (Noodle Bar)
33 Cranbourn Street
London WC2H 7AD