Manchurian Legends

Restaurants, Chinese Chinatown
Manchurian Legends
© Tricia de Courcy Ling

Please note, Manchurian Legends is now closed. Time Out Food & Drink Editors.

The hearty cuisine of north-eastern China is rare in London, but Manchurian Legends – which since summer 2012 has been ensconced in these folksy little premises – specialises in the food. The menu, brought by young smiling waitresses, is long and enticing, with robust meat and offal dishes dominating.

Lamb, wheat (rather than rice) and hotpots characterise the cookery, so succulent, fatty lamb skewers with chilli and sesame-seed topping make an apt starter. Or try beef tendon and tripe in spicy sauce: tender meat and a welter of wobbly honeycomb tripe, doused in chilli oil and topped with peanuts, the vast portion was enough for three to share. Alternatively, there’s a fine choice of fried dumplings.

Next could come Manchurian hotpot (a DIY feast where diners dunk raw titbits into boiling stock), or a warming beef brisket stew with white carrot (the cinnamon-flavoured gravy permeated the turnip-like carrot, but the beef needed more cooking). Equally rich was a lusciously slithery but too oily aubergine and minced pork dish (the advertised broad bean sauce seemingly absent). Noodles are thick and appealing, but it would be nice to see some Xinjiang bread – and more vegetable dishes to counterbalance all the meaty richness.



Venue name: Manchurian Legends
Address: 16 Lisle Street
Opening hours: Meals served 11am-11pm Mon-Wed, Sun; 11am-11.30pm Thur-Sat
Transport: Tube: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus tube
Price: Main courses £6.50-£19.80. Set lunch £5.50-£11 2 courses. Set dinner £18.80-£23.50 2 courses (minimum 2)
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Average User Rating

2.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:7
  • 4 star:6
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:10
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We may have had eyes bigger than our stomachs!  I went with a friend of mine and loved the sound of most of the menu.  As other reviewers have already mentioned, it's not what you would typically find in chinatown, there is comfortable seating, a nice atmosphere and the staff actually seem to care.

We ordered the famous bbq skewers as well as sizzling hot pots, noodles, pork belly etc.  (it was obviously too much for 2) but as we went there for lunch and it wasn't too packed we stayed a few hours and slowed ate and chatted.  Definitely try this place and be sure to go with enough people to order a wide variety... or leave yourself enough time to slowly munch away


A flyer on the outside informs potential diners that, at one point, following some public poll, Manchurian Legends was in the top 50 restaurants in London. How this can be quantified, who knows? But it's in my top 50. Granted I've probably only been to 51, but that's by the way. 

Manchurian Legends is on the cusp of Chinatown but not quite at its beating heart. It's on the back alley end, away from those tacky tourist-trapping all-you-can-stuff-in-your-fat-tight-arsed-face-you-scum buffets which plague the main lantern bestrewn thoroughfare. Manchurian Legends, along with the modest (but not as good, and pricier) Chinese restaurants which neighbour it on both sides, is a cut above your basic dead-ducks-dripping-fat in the window chop-shops and actually provides a pleasant space in which to relax and enjoy food. You aren't churned through the mill - you get led to your seat, to comfortable tables and benches, and can soak up authentic music and artwork. The kitchen doesn't spill out into the dining area, like the other 'restaurants' you may find. No rest going on in those places. Only food poisonings in the making.

The menu is large. A point or two must be knocked off for the 'Vegetarian' section, the first item of the selection being a pork (aka dead pig) dish which, according to the current scientific evidence, does not count as a plant, what with it having a brain and central nervous system and higher intelligence than most dogs etc. This confusion over what a vegetarian meal actually is pervades many of the offerings. The chef presumably thinks that if there are vegetables in it, it must be fine. Whatever, one can easily avoid the eating animals by not ordering them. 

Since the place is quite easygoing and they weren't too busy, I asked if they might combine two different vegetarian dishes into one, so that I could have a spicy chilli sweet and sour tofu stir fry. They made it for me at no extra cost than the two individual meals would have cost. The fried beancurd came in massive, succulent chunks and the vegetables were crisp and of a wide variety. My friend's huge aubergine & potato mound cost the same as my food (£8) and we happily sampled the contents of one another's plates. The rice wasn't even necessary and didn’t get eaten, so generous were the portions.

When you leave, you are directly opposite the Prince Charles Cinema. Go and catch a classic movie screening at half normal West End prices. Then comes out, go back into Manchurian Legends, and eat the same meal again. That is how to live your life. Go! Realise your vision! 




I wanted to try this place for quite some time and left rather happy with the experience.

The décor is so nice. It looks like you’re seating in a big Mongolian yurt, especially when you’re downstairs. It’s so pretty I didn’t even notice at first that the downstairs area doesn’t have windows. Well done!

The food is delicious. Try the squid or lamb skewers; the meat is cooked perfectly. Or order the goulash; it’s wonderful. There’s also bubble tea if you’re into that.

Service can be a bit brisk but at least you know your food is going to arrive pretty quickly.

The menu needs revising though. Do not be fooled by the numbers of red peppers drawn next to a dish – even if there’s only one pepper, it’s going to be hot. You’ve been warned. And good luck choosing what you want to eat when all the food is listed in one big list instead of being divided by genres (meat, fish, vegetarian…).


We were looking for some pre-theatre dinner and we stumbled with this restaurant.

A typical authentic chinese restaurant, good food and good prices.

Specially like the dumplings and the duck.

Visited Manchurian Legends on a rainy afternoon in January and it certainly offered food to warm the cockles! An authentic atmosphere persuaded us to choose items not normally seen on a standard Chinese restaurant menu, including spicy barbecued meat skewers and shredded pork (rather than shredded duck). The dumplings we had to start were delicious, as were the lamb skewers (as recommended by Time Out) and the shredded pork is certainly a good option, even if the pancakes look unconventional (still not sure what these were made of). Overall, it was a reasonable price for a Chinatown experience with a difference and I will certainly return.

Really enjoyed the food. Service was quick too. Of the dishes we had these were excellent: cold pig's ears lamb skewers pork belly with pickled veg and glass noodles stew

This has quickly become our favourite China Town restaurant. The menu is original and gives a really good choice. It would be a shame to come here and order a set meal. The food was perfectly prepared and efficiently delivered. A down-to-earth, rather than fancy, restaurant -but all the better for that. Watch the bill, though. Service Charge was added to the bill, but the credit card machine still asked if I wanted to leave a tip. This is something that seems to happen at a lot of China Town restaurants. A really enjoyable meal which has totally spoiled me for my local chinese restaurants.

The menu is huge and pretty inaccessible and the interior is not particularly glamorous but if you stick to the recommendations above of the wonderfully spicy lamb skewers and the great chicken plate you will not be disappointed. A welcome change to the dim sum and standard menu's that chinatown has become synonymous with.

The food is great and we are going there again. They are very authentic and my friend was born in Manchuria and she loves it and she said that it makes her feels at home. One important thing that you never do in most chinese or manchurian restaurant, do not order wine . Ask for chinese tea because firstly they do not know much about wine and secondly it does not goes with chinese , japanese or manchurian food, unless you are having about rice wine / sake. Do not try if you are not adventurous enough. They serve food like intestines, frog legs, chicken heart, pork jelly, kidney..... I can only go there with my chinese friend and will never take my english husband there because he will never appreciate the real chinese cooking. Most westerners only can appreciate things like perking ducks, stir fry beef or chicken, ..... some dumplings....

Moved here from Taiwan and went here with the Mrs. The food, when we went for lunch, was actually really good. The service was really good, as well (though, the waitress was from nearby Fujian in China, so perhaps there was an element of commonality that resulted in better service?). It isn't a fancy restaurant, but we weren't let down when we went and it met our expectations.

Utterly utterly average in every respect. Time Out has seriously lost credibility with me in giving the best cheap eats award to this restaurant. The food was greasy and overcooked, the bare 100w lightbulbs shine directly in your eyes and the service ranged from slow to arthritic. The much mooted (54) braised pork with glass noodle was the biggest let-down of all, lumps of pork fat swimming in a weird flavourless gloop. If I wanted a cheap chinese I'd just go to one of the "duck pancake" places nearby, at least then my expectations would be met. Having eaten at all the Timeout cheap eats runners up recently this is by far the worst in every respect. Ariana II, Kao Sarn and Meza are all fantastic, quality food, great atmosphere and bustling service. Shame.

I'm utterly confused by all the negative comments. Ate here the other day and every dish was delicious. Particularly good was the aubergine with pork-this dish is usually very greasy with too-mushy aubergines but here they were lovely, soft with a nice perfectly charred crunchy edge. Dumplings are outstanding-the kind little old chinese ladies make at home (and different style but in quality like my Beijing-born chef friend makes with his family every Sunday). They are perfect size, super tasty, with exactly right chewiness to the wrapping. Red braised pork with glass noodle Also excellent. And genuinely cheap for this quality- my friend and I paid £60 for enough food for four (we each got full breakfasts as well out of what we could not finish) Plan to go back tonight. The negative reviews are just mystifying!

My opinion? Ignore the reviews below and go and try it for yourself. I think this place is fantastic and wonder honestly whether some of these reviewers shouldn't just stick to eating at places like Ping Pong where they can get the kind of slick, Westernised bullshit food and service they feel they can handle. Firstly the skewers here are the bomb! Chicken hearts, pork belly and chicken wings grilled until just crisp and then rolled in a chill and cumin combination like some kind of ingenious adult lolly. And the dumplings. These are the real deal. Made from a Northern style boiling water dough they are thick and chewy and served with a scarily addictive dipping sauce. If you want prissy little dumplings in a steamer basket go elsewhere. If you want China's answer to perogies look no further. Order at least two kinds - you WILL eat them all. Onto the mains, I've tried the chicken on the bone with tree mushrooms, pork slices in 'extremely spicy soup', the aubergine with minced pork, and the pork belly with glass noodles and there is nothing bland or flavourless about any of it. In fact I went with a die hard Chinese food lover who has been eating at Bar Shu religiously two to three times a week for a year and he declared Manchurian Legends as 'more authentic and less dumbed down' than Bar Shu. Maybe that's the issue. People read a review by Jay Rayner, decide because they've eaten some tosh at their local Cantonese or at Ping Pong (sorry to bash the place but it's pretty lame) that they are authorities on Chinese food and then when Manchu hits them in the face with their spicy, picky, cumin scented dishes laced with chill oil, they run screaming in the opposite direction and decide to write a bad review. You like your meat with bones, your vegetables with char and your dumplings with chewy, glutinous goodness - hightail it to Manchu. Otherwise go eat your Lemon Chicken balls and leave this place in peace!

Time Out has seriously lost credibility with me in giving the best cheap eats award to this restaurant. The food is horrible and we did not finish any of our dishes. Definitely will not go back here. It is rare for me to leave a restaurant hungry but it really was that bad!

I just want to add to the below bad reviews and urge Time Out to review this wildly inaccurate rating! I read great reviews about this place and 10 friends and I decided to visit - not one dish of the many we ordered (and we seriously over-ordered) was any good and everyone left disappointed. If you are reading this then ignore the other customer reviews and take Time Out's view AT YOUR PERIL! Don't go.

1 star as 0 stars are not possible. Really bad food. Too salty, too greasy, not enough sauce. Don't eat 94. You get some fatty beef-like stripes in the form of noodle. No beef taste, not hot, no sauce, lack of beef flavor. Dumplings were pretty tasteless. Don't go there, avoid! The extra 10% service charge are for nothing. Starters arrived after mains, one main arrived after all other guest have finished. Poor service. I am so disappointed I went there.

Just had dinner at Manchurian Legends. We wrote down the numbers from the review above, and from Jay Rayner's review in the Guardian, and ordered based on their recommendations, as we would otherwise been lost in the large menu. The food was fabulous. Some of the best Chinese we;ve ever had. The prices were very reasonable (huge and delicious dinner, with drinks came to 25 pounds each). The service was attentive and charming. The decor, whilst a little strange, had some nice touches: the photos. I'll certainly return, often. Can't think why others had such a bad time.

Why oh why did I ignore the below comments about Manchurian Legends. I excitedly read the Time Out review above, then read the one star ratings, hesitated, then decided to go. What a mistake. My friend nearly spat out the acidic house wine which we sent back. My friends and I will drink anything. We have never sent a bottle back before. The spare ribs were cold on the inside. When we informed the waiter he looked puzzled and asked what we wanted to do with the ribs, "Bring us some cooked ones??" we chimed. The rest of the meal was pretty rubbish. Oh and they snuck a service charge on the final bill. Time Out, you may need to review the Award...

I really don’t get how this place won TimeOuts best new cheap restaurant. We went a few weeks back and it was probably the worst meal I’ve had this year. I felt so bad for dragging my friend out in the rain for greasy, flavourless, and at times, downright nasty food. We ordered a pancake, some lamb skewers, cold aubergines in garlic, potato strips and bowl of beef stew with potato. Staples of Northern China. The pancake came out in pool of oil which was on the turn. We left the aubergines which were unedible, it was just like eating some chopped up garlic with copious amounts of salt and some old aubergines. The lamb skewers had heat from the pile of dry chilli flakes but lacked any flavour. The beef stew was just a filler by the time it came out – 30 mins after everything else. For all its marketing, I would say less than quarter of its menu comes from Dongbei or Northern China if that, the rest is actually from Sichuan or bog standard China town fair i.e. Cantonese.

Sometimes it's with what attitude you approach a restaurant, and how well you order that dictates what your experience is like. And this is not coincidental: if you've not bothered to research the menu and are not patient with a simple, canteen-style restaurant, then you often get what your effort merits... For that price you are not paying for the level of service that accompanies more 'designed', or high end and (often/sometimes) bland restaurants. If they actually engaged with the staff at Manchurian legends, asked questions, and read a few reviews I think many of the complainants here would have had a significantly more rewarding experience. With a restaurant like Manchurian legends, it is often what you put in that dictates what you get out - which can be superb.

I was there with a group of friends from the office, not only did we have a great variety of dishes all of which were delicious but we ended up paying a very small amount for the large quantity served. It was a very nice evening!

I wish I had read the reviews before going to this restaurant! The food was pretty good, but the service ruined our evening. The waitress was incredibly rude. We spent nearly an hour trying to get our bill correct, as they had added heaps of things on to it that we hadn't ordered. We were very polite about it, but they kept getting it wrong over and over again and when we sent it back the waitress stomped around like a teenager and at one point hit the wall with her hand. We had to ask repeatedly for tap water, they never brought our desserts out and seemed in a huge hurry to get us out of the restaurant. I won't be going back.

Very disappointed. It's hard to understand the 4 stars given to this restaurant. The service was very unfriendly. We asked to change to another table far from the freezing cold air-conditioning and were told that changing table will confuse the "kitchen" ! Then the starter and the main course arrived at the same time. We said that we wanted the main course AFTER the starter and were told that there is no starter or main course, there is only one course and that we should have said that we wanted the "starters" before ! The cold aubergine starter was not edible. The main course was so so.

Food quality: Grilled pork dumplings: the WORST dumplings I have ever had! The first page of their menu introduced that they hire their chef from Norther China? How could possible a chef from northern China ever make such disgusting dumplings! and those dumplings are defiantly from some JP or KR market! Pan-fried pig's intestines with hot chilli and pepper MEAL: Okay the soup comes with the meal is fine and I quite like it, but the taste really like from some ready-to-cook sauce. but I cannot confirm if this true. But the pan-friend pig's intestines with hot chilli and pepper dish..., they taste like nothing..., no spicy, no salt, no pepper..., I feel I'm tasting plastic!! But next time I'll be there again to give a try with awarding food.

yet another review in which time out exaggerates the quality of the food. after reading Guy Diamond's opinion I expected to be transported on a wild and exotic journey... the reality was quite disappointing and a far cry from the vibrant flavours and textures described above.

I use timeout religiously for restaurant recommendations so snapped this one up. For the first time i was sorely disappointed. We were told to go upstairs for our booked table for 2. We were left for 20 mins standing around. No one even blinked when we walked out. Although I didn't get to try the food I would never go back, as I have never experienced such bad service at a timeout 4 star restaurant.

my friend and i had an amazing meal there - food took slightly long to arrive, but even though we did not complain we received 2 free dishes and 25% off the bill.... the pork belly was rich, sweet and tender, and it was refreshing to taste spices like cumin on the skewered lamb at a chinese restaurant, there were also fresh moments with the wide flat noodles salad with cucumber etc. i can't stop thinking about my next visit..

Average - I agree with Jamie Lyons review below. If you've never ventured further than your local Cantonese then this will be amazing. If, however, you've been to really good regional Hunan (Local Friends in Golders Green) or Sichuan (Angeles or Chilli Cool, say 3 or 4 years ago) or Geoffrey Leong's own excellent Taiwanese Leong's Legend, and you're expecting the same level of excitment and interesting new flavours and textures, you're gonna be disappointed. We pretty much tried only the Manchurian things, but there was just no wow. The food is ok, but someone has got the salt nazi's in, as everything was lacking in depth. I'm not one for taking a restaurants decor into account, but his other places are well finished. It's hard not to think they've stretched themselves a bit thin with this one, as it looks cheap - just check out the men's toilets. The bubble tea was good though, and 10p cheaper than the bubble tea shop round the corner. So not all bad! It's worth trying, if only because before 31st August you can get 25% off by quoting "Restaurant Priviledge" when booking.

Me and My Brother had the following; Lamb Kebab Skewers - These were bursting with fresh flavours and tasted excellent. Mandarin Style Ribs - When we first saw this, it looked huge for a starter. But it has allot of bone. Nothing special, but nice and meaty. Fragrant Chicken - Quite spicy, good fresh flavours, but a little fiddly because nearly every chicken piece had bones in it. (I would have preferred to wolf it down) Pork belly with glass noodles - This dish was quite good, but seemed to have the same flavour as the ribs. Ducks tongues - I'll be honest, if I tell you it wasn't all that, no one will be surprised. Once again, it tasted like the ribs. Chinese Pancake - Quite nice, but there's only so far I can get excited over a Chinese pancake. Mixed Vegetables - This was a main meal of Potatoes, red and green peppers and Ginger soaked it as much oil as humanly possible. It was like a soggy version of what it should of been. Steamed rice - What more can I say. The waitresses were really friendly, They told us we ordered too much and said what meals they thought we wouldn't like. Good touch of honesty. The smaller of the waitresses was adorable. 3 Stars because although the menu was not your average, the quality certainly was.