Sunday, 30 September 2012

Leong's Legend


As a one-time resident of Hong Kong my idea of a traditional Sunday lunch is Cantonese dim sum as much as it is an English roast, although I love them both. Since my return to London I tend to get my dim sum fix at the same restaurant in Chinatown (see my blog post in July, which also explains what the main dishes are) but have been thinking I should really at least try somewhere else for a change . . . so this time we veered slightly off our beaten track and went to Leong's Legend in Macclesfield Street. Actually a Taiwanese restaurant, the dim sum nevertheless came highly recommended.

Two points to note if you are planning to eat here. First, they have two restaurants in Chinatown: this one and Leong's Legends Continue in nearby Lisle Street. As far as I can tell the latter is more of an overflow venue so the food should be pretty much the same, but if you're arranging to meet friends it might help avoid confusion.

Second, actually getting in to the restaurant gave me a slight speakeasy flashback; the welcoming doorway to the left of the venue, next to the window with visible seated diners, is in fact only  for the Candy Cafe upstairs. To get into Leong's you knock on a really solid-looking door to the right of the window which needs to be opened for you from inside by a member of staff. Squeeze in and you will find yourself in an attractive and unexpectedly stylish tea-room type interior with wooden tables and benches, deep blue walls and gentle lighting.

We were seated immediately and given both a la carte and dim sum menus. For those unfamiliar with dim sum, it is a meal of several small sharing dishes (think Chinese tapas) either chosen from passing trolleys wheeled by staff or ordered from a tick-sheet menu. Leong's is the latter version; helpfully the English translation is written underneath but do make sure you are ticking the right box as it can look a little confusing mid-page. Dishes arrive at the table in no particular order and you just tuck in. Our selection was as follows:

Prawn and Celery Cheung Fun - quite good, but the prawns had a very solid texture that made me wonder if they had been in the freezer a tad too long, or were perhaps a little overcooked. I couldn't detect any celery in them, although there was coriander . . . which is called cilantro in the US. A possible typo? Nice mix of flavours though.

Prawn Dumplings - classic har gau, generously sized but again I felt the quality of the prawns was a little lacking.

Sticky Rice with Shredded Pork - a squat tower of sticky rice topped with a moist and well-flavoured mix of pork and mushrooms. I had expected the sauce to be hot but it was actually mild and sweetish. This was good, although I kind of miss the theatre of unwrapping the rice from a lotus leaf as in other restaurants.

Pan-fried Turnip and Shrimp Paste - the flavour was good, but they were a bit heavy; I prefer the outside/edges a little more crispy and the inside a little less dense.

Legend's Pork Siu Loung Bao - English translations of Chinese dishes are notoriously variable but these soup dumplings are usually found on menus as 'xiao long bao' or just 'XLB' for short. You can either bite the top off and sip at the spicy soup and pork filling or pop one in whole, bite down and let the flavours burst into your mouth. I prefer the latter but do be careful; dim sum is freshly-cooked, so these will arrive very hot! The filling was excellent, with a meaty depth to the soup and a kick of ginger, which I love. The wrapping was quite thick which made them a bit stodgier than I would have liked, but  otherwise these were great - and very good value at £5.50 for eight pieces.

Prawn and Ham Stuffed Rolls - not deep-fried spring rolls but steamed in a very savoury (MSG?) sauce. I liked them but my companion found the flavour a little too pronounced.

Egg tarts - nice filling but a little too much pastry. I flaked most of the outside of mine onto the plate.

A word about the staff; on our visit they were absolutely fine, perfectly helpful and courteous. Perhaps we were lucky, but I do wonder if the repeatedly negative comments about staff attitude is a cultural thing; you just don't get that American chatty new-best-friend version of service, more a polite and reserved efficiency which is seen as more appropriate. Personally I would rather have my food and a brief smile than some teenager hunkering down by my table and quizzing me insincerely about my day.

So this is Leong's Legend - I enjoyed my visit, just not quite enough to tempt me away from my regular.

Yours, faithfully,







Girl About Town xx

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