One of my favourite scenes from the legendary TV series, The Sopranos, is when Mafia boss Tony is talking about the great things the Italians have introduced to the world.
When Tony’s daughter challenges him and says that pasta was a Chinese invention, he dismisses her with his irrefutable mob logic. "How on earth can you eat noodles with chopsticks?"
How indeed. As we know, not only were the Chinese responsible for inventing noodles, but, along with the Koreans, Japanese and South East Asian countries, are arguably the greatest proponents of its culinary deployment.
The Noodle House on Shaftesbury Avenue is part of the Dubai-based Jumeirah chain, which has more than 20 restaurants in cities from Hong Kong to Moscow. This is their first UK offering, and is cheekily located a stone’s throw away from Chinatown. It’s a good-looking restaurant, with brown wood interior panelling mixed in with some hipster lighting, exposed brickwork, and an even more exposed kitchen.
We deferred to the maitre’d’s recommendations, and promptly tried the wasabi prawns, chicken satay, and duck dumplings from the small plate selection; the pick of which were the prawns, narrowly edging the duck dumplings. We then did large plates of Beef Char Kway Teow – which are flat rice noodles with tender strips of beef, bean sprouts, leeks, tenderstem broccoli, spring onions, garlic, chives and eggs – and the Malaysian beef rendang. All of the aforementioned dishes were nice, but lacked a little bit of bite, punch or kick, even for my mild palate. Beautifully cooked as they were, it was like they had been neutralised for British tastes. The desserts, normally a weakness in these cuisines, were much better – the herbal tea-infused ice cream with a mango pana cotta was gorgeous.
The waiting staff were charming and enthusiastic and largely Antipodean, which was a good thing. The relatively small numbers of punters on a wet Wednesday evening were either tourists, or the pre- / post- theatre crowd. The pricing, with large plates around a tenner is a bargain for the location. The downstairs cocktail bar, which I only discovered when visiting the bathrooms, looks like it has the potential to be a destination venue in its own right.
Stylish yet understated (and hotel like?), The Noodle House also comes with gimmicks – like USB charging points at your table – which while useful, slightly detracts from the restaurant experience. However, overall it’s a nice addition to the Cambridge Circus area and a good alternative to the Chinatown offerings.
Also, they offer with dinner that other great Italian invention: cutlery. Who says you have you eat Asian-style noodles with chopsticks?
The Noodle House
117 Shaftesbury Avenue
London WC2H 8AD
+44 20 3725 5777