Address: 15-17 Pennyfields, E14 8HP
Area: West India Quay
Nearest Station: Westferry
Tel.: 020 7987 8688
Good For: Lunchtime fix, Filling meal, Cheap and cheerful, Smart-casual dining, Takeaway
It’s been over a month since I was placed with my client in Canary Wharf.
I find it an absolutely fascinating place, evoking as it does for me a real feel of Central in Hong Kong – the shopping malls, the high-end stores, the skyscrapers, the bankers… but alas, I have found it lacking in good options for Asian, and particularly Chinese, food.
For East Asian options, yes, there is a Royal China, and yes there is a floating restaurant somewhere, and yes there is Itsu, but there is also Wasabi (OH MY GOD WHY DOES THAT PLACE EXIST!?). And as far as I can determine, there is nothing else on the Canary Wharf estate that offers a quick, cheap and cheerful Chinese meal.
This proved rather problematic the other day, when I was struck by an almighty craving for char siu fan at lunchtime. Okay, problematic is an understatement – it was seriously bad. It was an itch that needed scratching, but it was seven long hours before I was able to stumble into one of the Chinese takeaways in New Cross and order some char siu; I think I got a momentary glimpse into the life of a crack addict.
The next day, I was pointed in the direction of one of the other business analysts who told me about a small place, called Noodle Street, that she quite rated some distance away from the office (‘some distance away’ as in “difficult to squeeze into a short lunch”). Hmm. I had some conflicting thoughts here: a) I had heard her rating Pizza Express as offering some of the best pizzas she’d ever had (I’m such a snob, right?), b) Noodle Street made it sound a bit generic and potentially like a bland pan-Asian restaurant, c) it could be just some cheap and tacky takeaway, and d) was their char siu any good?
It could do, but it did not seem to be the most promising of solutions.
Nevertheless, since last Friday was rather quiet, I decided to take my full lunch hour (and maybe a few minutes more…! Naughty me) and make the trek to check this place out. I hopped on the DLR at Canary Wharf and within minutes I was stepping off at Westferry, moments away from Noodle Street. “Not such a bad journey”, I thought to myself. “Maybe I won’t just get a takeaway – maybe I’ll have a sit down”.
And it’s a decent place for a sit down – cool interiors framed by sleek, clean and modern lines and a green colour code, with pretty awesome-looking bamboo holders for the chopsticks.
I then browsed the menu – it was mostly Chinese (with some pan-Asian flourishes), and had some rather surprising entries: turnip cake, xiao long bao, grilled char siu bao, scallop siu mai, and sago pudding for dessert. And look! There it is! Char siu fan! Okay, this wasn’t just some cheap and tacky takeaway with a standard menu; there seemed to be some thought that had gone into this place. This was starting to look promising…
“But”, I hear you say, “crack on it with mate, how was the char siu fan??” Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I did not have any. Instead, I was tempted away by the salt and pepper pork chops with egg fried rice, as I had a fleeting vision of a similar dish that I had in Café de Coral back in Hong Kong some years back.
And I think I chose well. The egg fried rice was not greasy at all and had not been over-fried, allowing the rice to retain its fluffiness. The broccoli again was allowed to retain some of its natural crunchy characteristic and was not over-cooked.
And as for the pork: wow. It was amazingly flavourful, with a wonderful balance of the salt and the pepper, enhanced by sweet and spicy garlic-spring onion-chilli mix in which the pork had been fried. The meat itself was tender enough to be cut into by my spoon, and there was more than enough of it on the plate. For £6.80, it was a fairly sizeable portion with all the components in good proportions to each other.
What more can I say about this dish? It is full of comfort, flavour and happiness and evokes memories of Hong Kong. I am salivating just thinking about it. I need to go back, even if just for that dish. And having completed the 10-15 minute walk back, it is definitely doable in a normal lunch hour.
But of course, the original reason why I went there was for the char siu fan. Let’s hope that Noodle Street can similarly deliver on that dish too. And then I can move on to the beef ho fun, and then the dim sum… the temptations just keep on coming.
VERDICT – I may have been only once, and I may be lionising this place purely based on its local context and not the wider scene of Chinese food in London, but I don’t care. It provided an absolutely scrumptious meal, quick service, relief from the scorching sun, and most importantly of all, a fantastic alternative to the chains of Canary Wharf (j’accuse, Wasabi, j’accuse!). I will most definitely be going back for that char siu fan
Currently listening to: Coheed and Cambria – Number City