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Sunday, 6 December 2009
I can’t think of a restaurant that attracts such a range of different opinions as Leong’s Legend. I had meant to visit it for some time but had been put off by some damning reviews by fellow bloggers. My curiosity got the better of me, and so I headed to Chinatown’s Macclesfield Street with an inquisitive but open mind.
At around 6:30pm, our group of 6 arrived at a very full and buzzing restaurant. We were soon greeted by the manager “Jade” who promised us a table if we returned in 30mins. He explained that bookings were not taken in the evenings, and that they operated on a first-come-first-served basis when seating their customers. We returned at the time agreed (by this time there was an enormous queue) and were soon shown to our table.
Our first impressions were good – the manager and staff were extremely polite and helpful (unlike in most reviews), the decor was elegant and the food looked delicious. Leong’s Legend’s interior is reminiscent of Hakkasan’s dark wood panelling and subtle lighting, but in a much more understated manner - it feels more like an old teahouse than a posh restaurant.
Some of the good write-ups, like that from World Foodie Guide, praised highly Leong’s Siu Loung Bao, its Braised Pork Belly and the Mini Kebab with Pork. We ordered these and other dishes and found, with only a few exceptions, that they were very good.
The “Legend’s Siu Loung Bao” (8pcs) @ £5 was indeed excellent. The skin was a tad too thick for my tate but the pork filling and delicious broth inside them more than made up for this. They were one of the best Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Dumplings) I have had for a long time.
Leong’s “Crab Meat Siu Loung Bao” (8pcs) @ £6 also did not disappoint, they were just as good as their pork equivalent. I would strongly recommend ordering either of these XLB dumplings.
The star of the evening however was “Leong’s Braised Pork Belly” @ £6. The sauce was sweet and intensely flavoured while the meat was tender, utterly soft and delicious.
Since we had two children with us, we also shared a “Half Crispy Aromatic Duck” @ £14. This was good with plenty of meat and pancakes for all of us.
The “Aromatic Chilli Lamb” @ £6.80 was an interesting dish. I would not normally have ordered lamb at a Chinese restaurant before being introduced to Sichuanese cuisine a few years earlier. This dish was a delicious example of Sichuanese food, and one I would like to try again.
Another star dish of the evening was the “Aubergine with Mashed Garlic and Tao Pan Sauce” @ £5. These were by far the best stir fried aubergines I have ever had. Similar to Gourmet San’s Aubergine with Fish Fragrant Sauce, they were packed with flavour and the sauce was not too liquid. A real winner.
The other two accompanying dishes that we had were “Fried Special Noodle with Shredded Pork, Chives, Carrots and Onions” @ £4.80 and the “Bamboo Rice” @ £3.80. These were passable, and portion sizes were on the small side.
The “Taiwan Mini Kebab with Pork” @ £2.60 was flavoursome – the pork belly was slightly on the fatty side but the flavours were good, and together with the steamed dough, couscous and herbs made up a delicious dish.
Having had oyster omelette in Singapore many times previously, I was a little disappointed with Leong’s version “Fried Oysters Wrapped with Egg” @ £6.60. It contained tong choy (morning glory) which was an interesting addition, but the amount of oysters was not overly generous and it was a little dry. It was a mediocre version in comparison to its Singaporean equivalent.
Leong’s wine list was well priced with their white or red house wine starting at £12.50. We had two bottles of the Cuvee Le Bosq Blanc de Blancs at £12.50 – it was very easy drinking and partnered the food well. The total bill was £111 or £18.50 per person including 2 bottles of wine, tea for 6 people, soft drinks and service.
Verdict – Very good Taiwanese/Sichuanese dishes at reasonable prices in Chinatown. I would happily return to Leong’s Legend, particularly for their superb Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Dumplings), and Braised Pork Belly. Good service.