Please note this restaurant has now closed. A larger Leong Legend has now opened on Gerrard St. Time Out Food & Drink Editors, Oct 2016.
Chinatown is tricky territory. For every belter of a restaurant there’s one with a chef outside, smoking a fag and picking his nose (true story). Leong’s Legends, a noodle’s whip from Shaftesbury Avenue, is one of the good ones.
First impressions are a little imposing, with a hefty door firmly closed and a note demanding you knock. On our visit, the belated, lacklustre welcome got us nicely in the mood for service that never really deviated from world-weary and abrupt. Still, staff moved around the rustic, atmospheric teahouse surrounds (think dark woods, chunky tables and carved latticework) with the kind of charmless efficiency that gets jobs done.
Deference to the diner comes, instead, from the kitchen. Leong’s Legend bills itself as Taiwanese but the menu is peppered mostly with dishes from the mainland – think dim sum, crispy aromatic duck, kung pao prawns and stir-fried green beans with minced pork. Our advice? Be bold. It pays to be adventurous here.
We went large on offal. Beef tendons (£6), served cold in a sweet, spicy oil ran the gamut between tough and chewy and tender – and were great for it – while a pig’s trotter noodle soup (£9) was a rich, deep and dark broth bobbing with melting meat and sweet, soft sinew. A slightly thin oyster noodle soup with chopped pork intestine (£7.50) was marginally less impressive but still enjoyable. Portion sizes here are very generous – two of us struggled to finish a starter and two mains.
The slightly surly service might grate with some but when the food and prices are this good, it’s all easy to ignore. Take an appetite and a pinch of patience and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a solid Chinatown spot offering value by the bucket-load. And note: there's another branch, with largely the same menu but slight variations in pricing, in nearby Lisle Street.