Described as “South East Asia’s finest... in London’s West End”, The Noodle House on Shaftesbury Avenue sits beneath a red awning that shields it from the confluence of Covent Garden, Soho and Seven Dials outside, and promises “the vibrancy of buzzing street food stalls” as well as “some of the best taste experiences from South East Asia.”
The decor is tasteful and minimal, as its website suggests, and the open kitchen (allowing customers to see the food that is being cooked/prepared/theatrically set on fire) is a welcome addition. There is also a cocktail bar downstairs, where you can sample the ten signature cocktails, or, if you prefer, any of the 17 different types of tea.
Whether it lives up to its bold and “buzzing” admissions is what we were there to find out, this Saturday evening, and we started our investigation with a list that included some fairly spectacular sounding cocktails: Hot Boba Punch, Dragonsmoke or a Spice Island Iced Tea sound tempting?
The Noodle House states that its cocktails might not be to everyone’s taste, and I’d have to agree – the Sour Plum Sour, with its syrup and egg white, felt like a meal in itself and, whilst not necessarily bad, was definitely an acquired taste. The Singapore Slipper, though, and the Lucky Sling (both pictured below), were fruity, much more palatable and more akin to what would be expected on a more traditional cocktail menu. Excluding the Hot Boba Punch (£10), built for sharing, all the cocktails are either £7 or £7.90 – so fairly economical price-wise.
Our food came very quickly as we finished our cocktails; starters and mains in quick succession. It didn’t necessarily feel rushed, and lots of people would probably have enjoyed the efficiency of the service - but at 8.30pm on a Saturday evening, I wouldn’t have minded more time to linger. Possibly the fast service was because the restaurant was unexpectedly quiet for a Saturday evening – only around half the tables were full, and this could possibly be attributed to its slightly off location at the quieter end of Shaftesbury Avenue.
Food-wise, we ordered the Wasabi Prawns (£6.50) and Duck Dumplings (£4.20) to start – we had wanted the Chicken and Pork Siew Mai (£3.40), but they were sold out – followed by the Butter Prawns (£11.20) and Roast Duck Waton (£8). We complimented this with sides of Roti Canai (£2.90) and Steamed Asian Greens (£3.80), both of which tasted great, alongside the standard Prawn Crackers (£1.20) and steamed white rice (£2.20).
The starters and sides were fairly delicious – more so than the main courses – and the Steamed Green, Roti Canai and Butter Prawns particularly stood out. My Duck Wonton was passable but slightly tasteless, although the Butter Prawns (pictured) were spicy and, with their chilli curry butter, had a real kick and come recommended – as long as you’re not averse to getting your fingers suitably dirty.
Other main options include classics such as Cantonese Roast Duck, Asian Steamed Fish Parcel and Green Curry, as well as noodle dishes including Pad Thai, and various soup noodle options.
Overall, The Noodle House puts in a solid effort and succeeds at doing its quick, budget South Asian job well. After a pleasant evening, I wouldn’t object to a trip back – but I wouldn’t go out of my way to return either. It’s a cheerful and friendly place (more cheap and cheerful than its gourmet-looking website suggests) that will set your Saturday night off to a good start, and leave you with some cash in your pocket for the rest of the evening.
The Noodle House offers 20% off food for students, and also has half price cocktails and mocktails during its Monday happy hour, from 5pm to 7pm. Find out more here.
The Noodle House
117 Shaftesbury Avenue
Call 0203 725 5777 for reservations.