Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Noodle House comes to London: a good start for the Asian food chain from Dubai

The Noodle House is a restaurant chain owned by Jumeirah Restaurants from Dubai, which today (Thursday 17 April 2014) opens its first UK branch in Soho, London.

I was lucky enough to go to one of its 'soft opening' nights yesterday, effectively an opportunity for staff and management to practice running the restaurant ahead of the real opening - definitely a smart move.

But a soft opening doesn't mean it was quiet - in fact far from it. It was full of diners (apparently made up mainly of friends and family of staff) and had a lively atmosphere, so it very much looked the part in one of the busiest parts of London.

The girlfriend and I tried a selection of dishes. First came the 'Asian Salad'. Despite the generic name, it had a delicious and tangy citrus sesame dressing with a fried wonton skin on top - very refreshing. There were lots of ingredients in this (see caption), which meant there were lots of interesting textures and flavours; it was definitely not a boring salad.

'Asian Salad': mixed greens, mangetout, red onions, spring onions, coriander, baby corn, cashews and sesame seeds tossed in citrus sesame dressing, served with a crispy wonton.

The (seven) butter prawns were excellent. Served with the head separated (but still on the plate), the sauce was perhaps the real star. Cooked in a 'chilli curry butter', the dish didn't taste like any one particular ingredient, but rather a nice blend of many ingredients coming together. The char-grilled nature of the dish definitely added a slightly smoky flavour.

Butter Prawns: char-grilled garlic marinated king prawns tossed in a chilli curry butter, topped with fried curry leaves and black vinegar.

The bakmi goreng was another solid effort. The sauce had a subtle spicy kick after every mouthful. It's not too spicy though, so most people will be able to handle it. If you like stir-fried noodles, this would be a good choice.

Bakmi Goreng: udon noodles with chicken, prawns, bean sprouts, cabbage, pak choi, eggs and a sweet chilli ginger sauce, garnished with spring onions and fried banana shallots.

The vegetable fried rice was not bad and was generally a nice accompaniment for the rest of the meal. Fried rice is a pretty easy thing to make so it's difficult to get wrong.

Vegetable Fried Rice: wok-fried jasmine rice with peas, sweetcorn, carrots and mangetout. 

Moving onto dessert, the girlfriend and I shared a lime and ginger cheesecake. Sometimes cheesecakes can be quite heavy but this one was of the lighter variety - not too rich. The lime and ginger flavour was quite subtle and I personally would have preferred it slightly stronger, though the girlfriend thought it was fine - so all down to personal preference I guess.

Lime and Ginger Cheesecake. 

As expected with a soft opening, there were a couple of very minor hiccups along the way. The two-person cocktail we initially ordered was not available, and we received two portions of the butter prawns (not that we're complaining!) - but this is to be expected from a new group of people working together, so I'm not going to criticise them for that.

More importantly, the staff I interacted with were friendly and seemed positive and excited about the restaurant. Plus, underpinning all of it is that the food is pretty good - not a bad effort at all.

The Noodle House also serves cocktails.

Closest Tube: Tottenham Court Road or Leicester Square

Square Meal

Disclaimer: I won a competition to attend the soft opening, which included a free meal (but not drinks). However at no point was I asked to write a positive review in return.