Chinatown is awash with uninspiring eateries serving a greasy English take on Chinese cuisine, but amongst some horrors sit a few truly interesting places. Leong’s Legend II is one of the better restaurants in the area, specialising in Taiwanese food on Lisle Street.
Upon entering Leong’s Legend restaurant you know you’re in for something different. The dark-panelled rooms house only a handful of tables. We must’ve been lucky as we were seated straight away. By the time we started looking at menus a queue had begun to form outside.
Head chef Michael Tan has created a unique menu inspired by Taiwanese cuisine. It is, they claim, the first of its kind in the UK. The menu is slightly confusing; descriptions are vague and the range of dishes is enormous. We picked a few dishes at random, and hoped for best.
We began our experience of Leong’s Legend II with a starter of seafood dim sum, which was disappointing. The unappealing rubbery outer layer housed a somewhat vague tasting filling which only hinted at seafood and certainly wasn’t recognisable as any particular fish/crustacean. This was followed shortly afterwards by some rather average, if a little dry, duck pancakes. Oh dear, we began to think.
But just as we were beginning to feel all disheartened things started to improve, hugely. Leong’s Legend really shines with their more authentic taiwanese dishes (well I’m no expert on Taiwanese cooking but I presumed this to be the difference). Of these we tried pork belly, served with rice, and a Taiwanese oyster omelette as well as chilli beef and noodles.
The pork belly was the star of the show, we quickly devoured the huge chunks of mouth-watering meat coated in a sweet sticky sauce. We tried noodles too, which were fantastic. A little spicy, but despite the burning on my tongue I couldn’t stop eating them. A chilli beef dish was similar to the traditional chinese chilli beef but ten times better. It tasted not only of chilli but also many other flavours I’d have been able to detect if I was an expert in Taiwanese spices. Sadly I’m not.
Unfortunately the service left a lot to be desired. Our waiter didn’t seem overly concerned with serving us at all for much of the time and barely uttered a word for the duration of our stay. Disappointing as I always find this sort of attitude leaves a sour taste in the mouth no matter how good the food is. The food, however, was good enough to tempt me to return.
The Verdict: Interesting Taiwanese food at reasonable prices. Give it a try, but don’t expect the waiter to smile!
Leong’s Legend II
26-27 Lisle Street London
Leong’s Legend II also has a sister restaurant, Leong’s Legend I, which can be found on Macclesfield Street.