Noodles bars and specialist noodle restaurants have been popping up all over London in recent years, including the sublime Kanada-ya. Most of these have been Japanese, with ramen bars proliferating like a rash, almost as if London had an itch it couldn’t satisfy. Departures from the norm, such as udon, sometimes don’t turn out that well, (the-probably-less-said-about-it-the-better) Ichiryu being an unfortunate example. Tang London is an attempt to address the other parts of Asia, a new opening with a more South East Asian flavour and a Singaporean head chef.
It has an entrance squeezed between the YMCA and Vingt Quatre – very easy to miss – but when one enters, one finds an industrial style canteen. Chinese newspapers and black and white photos line the walls, trying to evoke a bit more of a traditional feel (possibly to disguise the fact this is actually a hotel restaurant). Food is served canteen fashion – you place your order at a counter and it is delivered to your bench once ready. I studiously avoided any references to the eatery reminding me of prison canteens I have seen in numerous TV shows with metal furnishings bolted to the floor to prevent the inmates from bashing each other over the head in fitful rage. Maybe they were expressing their displeasure of the food on the nearest person by starting a riot. I know how they appear to feel as by the end of my repast, I felt the same way. Full of a need to do violence to something. I felt I could almost murder a bowl of Ichiryu udon.
The menu is short – a choice of 4 broths – prawn, chicken, vegetarian or rice; with 3 types of noodles – wheat, glass or rice. There were 2 starters – fried tofu and fried chicken; combined with that crowd winner, artisan craft beers.
We visited on a Friday night during their soft launch – it was pretty quiet – probably the first warning sign. On the lookout for new food, I’ve been to a couple of soft launches and have learnt to be slightly more lenient when meting out my score. Although this one did try me severely.
Our food then arrived – and sadly, provided the explanation why it might be a bit quiet…
The prawn noodles looked very pretty – pretty much what one gets back in South East Asia. Sadly, it was incredibly bland – and that pretty much sums up the dish. The stock lacked any real flavour – unlike the more authentic version which is made by boiling prawn heads for eons to create a rich umami-laced broth. This version was anemic and seemed to lack salt or anything to give it taste. I would even accept a cheeky dash of MSG at this point. Similarly a vegetarian broth tried by someone else at the table was equally tasteless.
The fried tofu and chicken were better, although it generally is more difficult to butcher fried stuff. The tofu was the best dish of the evening, the chicken a bit more mediocre by fried chicken standards. Especially having being spoilt by KFC – Korean Fried Chicken recently.
Tang London was a bit of a disappointment – there is probably room for good prawn noodles in London – just not food that even a prisoner could get angry at. It was their soft launch period and hopefully, they will be taking some feedback on board – I hold my breath that things might improve in the future. That or at least they should think about bolting their chairs to the floor to prevent a spot of violence after tasting their dishes.
A quiet eating 4/10.
A bowl of prawn noodles is GBP12 (although we did get a 50% discount in their soft launch period).
111 Great Russell St,
London, WC1B 3NQ
(Positioned bewteen VQ and YMCA)
0207 300 3324