We knock, a bolt slides open and a face appears behind the crack of the door and tells us to wait outside until a table is free. The door then closes again and the bolt slides shut. I’ve witnessed this door policy at the nearby up-their-own-arse cocktail bars Opium and Experimental Cocktail Club, but never at a fairly run-of-the-mill restaurant bang in the middle of Chinatown. If I hadn’t found it so strange and funny, I’d probably have seen it as just about the least welcoming introduction to a restaurant I’ve had. Fortunately the wait was only a couple of minutes and we were soon seated with a steaming pot of Chinese tea in the tasteful (for Chinatown) and warm surroundings, studying the intriguing Taiwanese influenced menu, which to my delight me was heavily pork centred. Today we were a little safe, as with a throbbing hangover, as delicious as pig’s liver or intestines with plenty of chilli may sound, I needed something a little more easy going. But for those more adventurous eaters there’s plenty to get excited by here.
The glutenous rice was packed with chicken, mushrooms and chestnuts and egg, something a lot of restaurants hold back on. The only complaint was that it was a little too glutenous, which would be my one complaint about the majority of the dishes.
The braised pork belly with rice (£6.50) flaked away at the prod from the chopstick and the meaty sauce it was in was intensely porky. This was definitely the star of the show and a great sized portion for this price.
The vermicelli with taro and preserved vegetables (£7) lacked a depth of flavour and was a little bland. It needed some soy or fish sauce to get over the gingery flavour and give it a salty kick. I wasn’t a huge fan of the texture of the taro either, and combined with their colour, I couldn’t help but feel like I was chewing on boiled fingers.
The little turnip puffs (£3.80) had plenty of crunch and a good filling of piping hot turnip. They could have done with a dip though, even a bit of soy sauce on the table would have done.
Then there was the pork buns (£3.80) which were big old things with a coating of sesame seeds giving a little texture. The pork inside had been minced with vegetables and
The Leong Xiao Long Bao (£6.50) are 8 generously filled pork dumplings with an exploding centre of minced pork and juice. Not knowing this, the first one of course burst all of my chin, so approach with caution, they are bloody hot. With a dip in the vinegar, which gives that needed sharpness, these really are enjoyable and you again get plenty for your money.
The service was a little hard to get the attention of any waiters, but the same can be said for the rest of Chinatown, so I don’t want to single Leong’s Legend out. What really makes this a hit is its value for money, as we had our fill four under £18 a head each with service, and all of the dishes were tasty and hearty. The Taiwanese influence also makes a pleasant change from the same old Chinese-English food that you’ll find at many of the other places in the area, so if you fancy giving your taste-buds a try of something new, without straying too far from familiar ground, then I’d highly recommend this place.
4 Macclesfield St, Chinatown, London