Crab. Duck-tongues. Trotters. Yum.
I can still taste the dishes from this Monday’s meal in Leong’s Legends III, in Bayswater.
Address: 82 Queensway, Bayswater, London W2 3RL.
Tel: 020 7221 2280
Leong’s Legend III in Bayswater has just opened following the success of its sister restaurants in Soho (Leong’s Legends I and Leong’s Legends II). It’s decorated to be reminiscent of a Chinese inn, with low hanging lamps and wooden screens, and sat in a booth you feel conspiratorial in the soft lighting.
The name of the restaurant comes from ‘Water Margin‘, a Chinese book vaguely based on the historical outlaws Song Jinag and his 108 companions who believed in robbing the rich to help the poor (people called them Leong’s Legends to show their respects), and the menu provides an experience as vivid as the legend that inspired it.
Disclosure: I was asked to review Leong’s Legends for this blog. The staff knew I was a reviewer and I did not have to pay for my meal.
The arrangement of the tables is great, as whilst there’s a noticeable and pleasant buzz around the restaurant, you’re not really aware of the other diners – you can just concentrate on getting lost in your meal. Likewise, the decor creates a relaxed atmosphere where you would’t look out of place in a jeans and T-shirt or a shirt and tie.
Lawrence the maître d’ was our guide through the menu, which allows you to choose whether to have a quick lunch or dinner of dim sum and noodles, or an exotic dinner of dishes you’ve never eaten before in your life . . .
- Taiwanese Mini Kebab with Pork (£2.80)
- Legend’s Siu Loung Bao – 8 pieces (£5)
The mini kebab was a classic and stylish starter, well balanced and light. Served on an intriguing ‘bread’, it combined the pork with a peanut sauce and other delicious garnishes that combined perfectly to create a sweet dish that left me wanting more. The pork itself was tender with a tasty strip of fat; importantly, the meat was not lost amongst the other flavours and was the remaining taste at once an enjoyable mouthful comes to an end.
Much less dignified, but all the more fun for it, were the Siu Loung Bao. What are they you ask? I shall tell! They look like typical dim sum: Lawrence advised us to pick one up at the top with the chop sticks, dip it into the rice wine, and bit the bottom whilst holding it above our mouths – at which points our mouths were flooded with warm, comforting soup! Siu Loung Bao are soup dumplings, and are a great starter. The rice wine provides a barely noticeable flavour that teases your mouth before you burst the dumpling for the reward of the soup. You’re then left to chew the filling (in our case this was pork) and the dumpling itself, lick your lips, and immediately move on to the next of these moreish treats.
The main event.
Our main course was a combination of the classic and the adventurous. Lawrence suggested getting several dishes for the table to share, brought all at once so that everyone can take what they want from each dish:
- Szechuan Duck Tongues (£4)
- Braised Pig’s Trotter & Boiled Egg with Soya Sauce (£6.50)
- Stir-fried Chilli Crab, Wind Shelter Bay Style (£17.50)
- Sticky Rice with Shredded Pork (£3.80).
The tongues were great to try, and not for the faint hearted – at the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, they very definitely look like tongues and might psyche out the delicate diner. However, your fearless blogger got stuck straight in and is glad that he did. The tongues had an almost crunchy texture, and were eaten by holding the end of the bone and biting the meat off in nibbles. The tongues had a little heat to them and provided a fun ‘snack’ in between bits of the other mains. Lawrence explained that the tongues would traditionally be a pub snack eaten with a beer, and I can see that a plate of them shared amongst friends could be a great starter to share amongst the table whilst everyone is arriving and making up their mind as to their order.
The Braised Pig’s Trotter was the stand out dish of the evening, a real revelation. Despite its inauspicious presentation and description, it had a great taste, very tender with the meat falling apart to the touch – soft, but never chewy. The sauce was rich but did not overpower the trotter. Apparently the trotters require a lot of skill and go through a lot of preparation to get to this level of flavour, but it was great to see that much of the food that we look down on is actually delicious and has just had a bad press.
If the trotter was the stand out, the crab was the undisputed star – as soon as it hit the table it demanded our attention. Quite what wind shelter bay style is I have no idea, but this was a great dish none the less. Joyous and messy, cracking open the shell to find pockets of sweet, white, tasty meat was incredibly satisfying, and the hot chilli coating served to enhance, rather than diminish, this flavour. I’ve got to be honest, once it appeared we got ‘crab vision’ and rather neglected the dishes for a short time (sorry other dishes!). I can unreservedly recommend this to any fan of shell-fish.
Supporting all of these dishes was the sticky rice with shredded pork. Coated in a delicate sweet chilli sauce, this was a nice accompaniment to our taste adventures.
Mango pudding (£2.80) is made fresh on the premises everyday and has very few additives. Somewhere between mango flesh and jelly in consistency, it served to cool and refresh the palate at the end of the meal.
During the meal we had a bottle of Cuvee Le Bosq Blanc de Blancs (£13.50) which was easily drinkable and nice to sip in between bites of the different dishes.
At the end of the meal we had an Iced Pearl Tea, a special tea from Taiwan. This icy cold beverage was refreshing, and whilst I reserve judgement on the tapioca ‘pearls’ (which have very little taste but provide a chewy consistency), the frosty tea was a great pick me up to send us on our way after a tasty and unique meal.
After being quickly won over by the Chinese inn style decor, we had a great evening eating both exquisite classic dishes and more unusual delicacies we’d never tried before.
The service was attentive but never intrusive, leaving us to a fun and relaxing evening of adventures in taste. The new dishes served to highlight that much food prejudice and snobbery is without foundation and there’s a whole world of new experiences waiting for the open minded diner. Leong’s Legends III offers the opportunity to have either a very reasonable meal of £10-15 per head, or a more extravagant taste experiment at £20-30 per head. We left the evening talking excitedly about the meal and eager to share the revelation of braised trotters with the world at large . . .
And finally . . .
If you do go (please do!) Lawrence recommends the following:
- Casket (Minced Chicken & Mixed Vegetables in a Crispy Box of Toast)
- Taiwan’s Most Popular Omletter (with oyster)
- 3 Glas Chicken (stir-fried chicken with Rice Wine, Soya Sauce & Sesame Oil
- Taiwanese Spicy Beef Noodle in Soup
- Iced Tiger Coffee.