This week brought a special treat for my far better half and me.

We went to London for an event and had an early dinner beforehand at a place that The Times‘s Giles Coren reviewed in November 2022: Noodle & Snack, 145 Cleveland St, London W1T 6QH, in Fitzrovia, a minute’s walk from Great Portland Street Tube station. It’s open from noon to 9 p.m.

Coren wrote:

It’s an awakening of the soul. I’m obsessed

While I wouldn’t go that far, Noodle & Snack is probably the most authentic Chinese restaurant in London, if not in the UK. I’ve never had such good Chinese food since Lee Ho Fook in London’s Chinatown. It used to be my go-to and had lots of Chinese customers, but it closed years ago.

Some things have changed since Coren reviewed the restaurant.

First, they are no longer licensed, so it’s soft drinks or jasmine tea only. That was okay, because we had wine at the event we went to later. However, it could be a show-stopper for those who want to unwind at lunch or dinner.

Secondly, they took Coren’s comments on board and have translated what was in Mandarin only to English and Mandarin. Thank goodness. The menu on the wall has more offerings than the menu on the table, so check out both of them.

Thirdly, she has a print of Coren’s column about the restaurant on the wall next to the cash register.

A lovely lady named Sally waited on Coren, and I think she waited on us, too. Coren had asked her for recommendations, so we did, too.

She said something that was music to our ears:

I don’t want to give you too much to eat.

She suggested the sweet and sour pork, a helping of vegetables and an order of boiled dumplings.

She suggested the same to Coren:

“Have the sweet and sour pork,” she advised me. “Proper. For Chinese people. Speciality from my home city of Shenyang.”

… it was wide, tenderised fillets of pork, floured and deep-fried twice for crispness, in a sweet and sour sauce made from two kinds of vinegar, brown not orange, with big slices of sweet onion and soft, roasty-tasting garlic, and truly life-changing.

It stayed crispy until the end, too. When I lived in the US, I used to order crispy beef done the same way in a spicy orange and Szechuan pepper sauce — one of my abiding food memories, even though I had it several times. I had only found it at that one restaurant though, and thought of it like a lost friend I’d never encounter again. Fortunately, I have been reunited. Beef, pork — it doesn’t matter. It’s the flour dredging and frying that counts.

Then there were the dumplings. Coren described them:

Now, the dumplings were not your silken steamed dim sum, but heftier, thicker and very much boiled. Ten of them in a portion, a daunting prospect, but then… so soft, so warming, and the pork filling mild and quite sweet but made tangy with aromatic vinegar. Unbelievably delicious.

I agree with everything but the dipping sauce. Ours was pretty much straight soy, no aromatic vinegar. That didn’t matter either, because the sweet and sour pork came with plenty of sauce.

The biang biang (bang bang) noodles are a must. These are not the normal noodles from the Orient that one expects, but thick pappardelle on steroids. As Coren put it:

… the biang biang noodles … were wide and chewy and fresh and stuck together in places, just like your mum would have made if your mum was from northern China and really good at cooking.

They came with a sprinkling of mild chili flakes and spring onions. Sally mixed the noodles together for us and we helped ourselves. We put the sweet and sour pork on top and had dumplings on the side.

We asked for knives and forks, because unless one is adept with chopsticks, the food is too unwieldy, especially the noodles. Sally happily obliged.

My only criticism is that the plates are really small. They could do with normal sized plates, because the food is so ample and you want to enjoy it while it’s still hot.

The bill for two came to £39.60, including a 10% service charge. While they take MasterCard, Sally says they prefer cash, so, for that amount, I paid in folding and told her to keep the change.

Coren really liked Noodle & Snack:

And that weekend I dreamt of Noodle & Snack, night and day. Esther kept asking, “What is it?” and I’d go, “Oh nothing, nothing…”

And at noon on Monday I was back, fifth time in eight days, this time with my office mate Charlie, who knows China better than me and wanted to see it. Sally brought us a cold chicken “snack” on the house that was clean and cool and fiery with Sichuan pepper. And I got the sweet and sour pork again for Charlie, who laughed because it was so good. And also aubergines that were floured and fried twice and so squishy banana-like inside I wanted to cry, but don’t have a name for as it wasn’t written or spoken in English at any point. And the best mapo tofu of all time.

I noticed that, on the table menu, they have duck spring rolls and a squid dish for those with more adventurous tastes. On the wall menu, two different tripe preparations are available along with more pork and vegetarian dishes. This menu is indicative only.

As Coren raved about them, we’ll try the floured and fried aubergines next time.

It should be noted that getting downstairs to the loo was somewhat unsettling, and I’m used to London’s downstairs conveniences. There is a banister on only the left-hand side of the stairs. I’m not as agile as I used to be in dress shoes. That said, the loo was immaculate, and my mother always said that was the deciding factor in a restaurant. If they care about the loo, they’ll care about your food, too.

If you’re in the neighbourhood, Noodle & Snack is a fine place to eat. Giles Coren’s review has much more about the restaurant’s decor, complete with photos. You can see more photos along with a few customer reviews here.

Talk about value for money. You won’t leave hungry.