When you visit theatre land in London then you are faced with literally thousands of restaurant choices, and the statistical probability that some of those restaurants will not be very nice.
On your list of ‘must haves’ will probably include good value for money, friendly and efficient staff (so you aren’t late for your show), a decent drinks menu, and good hygiene. Arguably your most important requirement will be that you are presented with a menu off which you genuinely would like to eat each and every item.
You will find all of that at The Noodlehouse on Shaftesbury Avenue – in spitting distance of all the main theatres. Part of a large global chain, this first UK branch opened in March 2014 and doesn’t have that generic chain restaurant feeling which can be so depressing. It is bright and inviting, with a clear Asian theme that doesn’t feel contrived.
There are two floors – a lively bar downstairs, and a large open plan area upstairs where you can watch the chefs cook you your dinner. The menu offers a great range of authentic Asian dishes, including dumplings, noodles, stir fried rice and soups. You can travel from Thailand to Malaysia to Singapore through the menu, and there is also a range of kids’ plates (definitely no fish fingers or nuggets on the menu for your little ones, which was great to see).
At each table you have little pots of chilli sauces and pickled vegetables to complement your dishes, and we delved into all of them during our meal. The chilli sauces went very well with the duck and chive dumplings, as although the soy dip which came with them was nice, we fancied a bit more heat. Our other starter plate of Si Racha prawns came with a house special fiery dipping mayonnaise which balanced heat and creaminess well.
For our main courses we chose Beef Char Kway Teow – stir fried flat noodles with beef, greens and garlic. Not dissimilar to a Pad Thai (also on the menu) it was tasty but overshadowed by the excellent Malaysian Beef Rendang. The tender beef had been slow cooked in an unctuous sauce of peanuts, coconut and lemongrass and we nearly licked the bowl clean as it was so good.
We didn’t really have room for pudding but couldn’t resist the chocolate fondant recommended by our server, and a bowl of exotically flavoured ice creams (very small scoops!). The fondant is the enemy of many a Masterchef, but ours had the perfectly gooey centre which would send Gregg Wallace into ecstasy.
There’s a decent drinks menu which includes a wide range of cocktails. The house wines are a bit steeply priced at £22 per bottle, although the red Tempranillo was a very nice one (especially to accompany the beef rendang).
If you find yourself in the West End then definitely consider checking out The Noodlehouse – it’s always good to have a reliable restaurant to visit in a tourist area, and you’ll enjoy it far more than the ubiquitous chains which litter the area.
Our 3 course meal for 2 with house wine and service cost £76.