Eateries in Chinatown and Soho can come and go very quickly; and while most delight in the eventual unveiling of St John’s Hotel, a little, old-school boutique gem by Fergus Anderson of St John that stands side by side with the urban-looking W Hotel at Leicester Square, we should not forget the new small restaurants and cafes that are not part of London’s grand gastronomic landscape but deserves recognition in their own rights.
Just opposite St John Hotel is this recently opened Beijing Dumpling. Though the flashy trick of having dumpling chefs do the work at the front window might have worn off – Jen’s Cafe started this and followed by Dumpling’s Legend – I, to my surprise, found the offerings at Beijing Dumpling quite alright, though I should mention that not many dishes on the menu belong to the Beijing tradition. The Spicy Pork Siew Long Bao I ordered was deliciously priced at about £6 and appetising enough. There was a mild heat in this soupy filling, though not much of the meat itself. The casing had this Ho Fun-like elasticity that was good to chew on. This texture and flavour was similar to the poached dumplings at Jen’s Cafe rather than the Siew Long Bao at Dumpling’s Legend.
My other dish of La Capital Zha Jiang Sauce with Noodle was very budget friendly, at £5. The rice noodle was of a softer sort and the topping was made of minced pork, green pepper, soy and vinegar. Imagine a sticky meaty version of a traditional hot and sour soup but a little sweeter. This wasn’t far off. It married well with the noodle and I slurped it all down real fast.
Viet, situated on the quiet side of Greek Street, is not a new restaurant but an old popular Vietnamese haunt in Chinatown/Soho area. The menu is half Vietnamese and half Thai, which I found bizarre. Nonetheless, the Viet dishes are decent and worth the pennies. The No.21 – Grilled Pork, Salad, Vermicelli – is my Other Bib’s lunch hour favourite. To me, this was a healthy dish, which failed short of the brilliancy at Au Lac. The pork was nicely charred, though there wasn’t much of it on the plate; the noodle was fresh. I poured in the sweet and sour chilli dressing and mixed it all up. Very, very appetising.
The pancake, however, was disappointing. There was too much of coconut milk in the pancake mixture, which dumped down other flavours altogether. The filling was also a little too cooked for my liking.
My other bib – thanks to him again – once had Mooli’s delivered to his office. He loved it, so I assumed I’d love it, too. Mooli’s isn’t Delhi Grill or Dishoom but rivals those two in term of freshness and taste. Their roll ‘n go fast food is inspired by Indian street food tradition. There are a variety of rolls, sides and lassi, while ordering is easy and the friendliest staff is always there to help out!
I had two mini Mooli’s of Paneer and Goat with a glass of Sweet Lassi. While waiting for the rolls, I wad told that the roti bread was made fresh in house. Some anticipation there, really!
The Paneer was the milder of the two and was nicely filled with mashed up cheese, crunchy carrots and sweet tomato chutney. Do not confused this roti rolls with the mighty burritos. Indian rolls are always smaller but the taste more complex and balanced. The Punjabi Goat cooked with cumin and served with potato salsa was a lot more fiery. The Goat came in this thick curry paste with a lot of meat, while the potatoes balanced the heat off nicely.
Et, voila, some great meals and without any worries for overdraft!!
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My head rating for Beijing Dumpling, Viet and Mooli’s says, “7, 7 and 8 out of 10″.
My heart rating in the same order says, “6, 6 and 8 out of 10″.
23 Lisle Street
Tel. 020 7287 6888
34 Greek Street
Tel. 020 7494 9888
50 Frith Street
Tel. 020 7494 9075