Sometimes a place opens up and catches your eye from the other side of the street. It’s usually the indiscriminate use of the colour fuchsia or a hilarious neon sign: “FREE SMELLS” declares Red’s on Queen Street. It’s a competitive market out there, and one has to have the wow factor, curb appeal, or whatever the marketing gurus are calling it these days.
Lanzhou Beef Noodles on Market Street have a guy inside the window, visible from the street, throwing fresh noodles aloft his head. Spinning them around, twisting them into shape, slapping them onto the work surface, deftly chopping them and tossing them into a cauldron of boiling water. Now, that’s some serious curb appeal; I almost got hit by a tram as I ran across the street to check it out.
Forget the decor, there is none. The table numbers are written in biro on star-shaped card and sellotaped to the tables. But I don’t care, and neither should you.
The style of noodles originates from the city of Lanzhou, hence the name, and there are literally five things on the menu that are all £6.99 or £7 with any drink (non alcoholic). I went for “original beef” and within three minutes, a huge bowl of steaming broth was brought over with those fresh noodles, sliced beef, spring onion and coriander. You can add some chilli oil and and black rice vinegar to your preference at the table.
The place is packed with people but there’s barely any noise as everyone is fully immersed in their bowls, lapping up the stock and slurping their noodles. This is how the bustling cafes in Lanzhou operate; you are in and out in twenty minutes, the food is damn good and you’ll have change from a tenner. Go there immediately.
Lanzhou Beef Noodles, 17 Market Street, NG1 6HX.