Saturday, 12 February 2011

Use your Noodle at Noodle Inn

Many years ago, when Gav and I lived in a flat above a shop on Abbeydale Road, the Vietnamese Noodle Bar came to London Road, Sheffield. Every day, to and from work on the bus, my head would turn to catch a glance of it, tempted by the bright purple façade and the promise of unusual cuisine (remember, this was the first Vietnamese place in Sheffield). 

Needless to say, we visited quite soon after it first opened and we were introduced to a whole new way of eating. We’re talking long tables to be shared with strangers, chopsticks by default, brisk service and a smile if you were lucky. Fine dining this was not and you would think that a lot of people would have been put off. But no, it quickly became a busy establishment, so much so that they extended into the next door premises and ditched the purple façade for gleaming chrome.

Everyone was there for one reason; the food which was amazing. The menu was enormous and although we gave it a good go, I don’t think we even covered a tenth of all the dishes in the time it was there. Favourites were hot and sour soup, Vietnamese pancakes, hot clay pots and the whole fish dishes. Of course, there were noodles too and you could get them with almost anything! Fantastic. For a long time it was our favourite restaurants and we took many of our family members and friends who were as impressed as we were.

Unfortunately the Vietnamese Noodle Bar is no more as it shut down a couple of years ago. I heard the owner went back to Vietnam. I just hope he comes back with new recipes to cook for us all! 

So, we’ve had to find an alternative. Thankfully we didn’t have far to go as the Noodle Inn is about 5 doors away. It’s been around for many years and I had tried to get Gav to try it earlier, but he refused. He can be quite loyal to places and as long as there was the Vietnamese Noodle Bar, he wasn’t prepared to go to Noodle Inn. 

We’ve been a few times now and the last visit was last Sunday. As per usual it was heaving and there weren’t any tables free. So, we were shown to the long central table where we sat opposite each other, with a family to the right of me and another joined to my left halfway through the meal. I love to see kids at these places. I’m a true believer of having kids try different things when they are young and noodles are an easy start.

The atmosphere was very informal. It was pretty loud and staff were flying around the place, all on their own individual missions. Gav was further entertained as a Miss China show was on the TV opposite him (and behind me). He’d even decided on his favourite and was rooting for her to win!

We’d brought a bottle of wine with us, as it is BYOB (another reason to visit!), and a waitress quickly brought us glasses with some tap water. We sipped away at that as we started to peruse the exceptionally long menu. Now, we have visited here many times and ordered takeaway many, many times so we do know the menu quite well, but it still took us at least 15 minutes to decide what to have. Gavin was as decisive as ever, which always delays the process somewhat and we had decided to try some new dishes, which also added to the delay. 

This also meant saying goodbye to my favourites, which include fried aubergine harbour style (aubergine slices rolled around a prawn stuffing, battered, fried and served with lots of chillies) and deep fried pumpkin with salted eggs (strips of pumpkin, presumably coated in a salty eggy mixture and fried). Instead we went for sesame prawn toast to share as a starter (predictable but sometimes necessary), a ‘Big Plate Rice’ with mixed veg curry and egg fried rice, Three Roasties and Fish Fillets in Hot Chilli Oil. The waitress warned that the fish was very hot, which only encouraged Gav further. It did raise a bit of concern with me; I have witnessed Gav struggling through various hot and spicy dishes. Bless, he can’t actually cope with chilli as well as he would like to. 

Sesame prawn toast was fine. Nothing offensive, but nothing exceptional either. It is what it is; sesame prawn toast, which is why there are no photos. In fact, I'm sorry as there are no photos at all. I did take some but my memory card isn't working properly.... sorry!

Next up was the mixed veg curry rice dish. The dish was huge and there was more than enough rice for the both of us. The veg was fresh and there was the usual variety; peppers, mushrooms, bean sprouts, mange tout and baby corn etc. It was all well cooked and still had a bite to it. The curry sauce was very typical Chinese curry sauce, no heat, but flavoursome.  

Three Roasties was a plate of 3 meats. One line of duck, one of pork and the other of chicken. Each were cooked differently. The pork had a crispy outing, more than just crackling and the chicken must have been cooked in some bright orange substance as the skin was stained.

Fish in Chilli Oil was a huge dish of fish swimming in chilli oil and pak choi, amongst other things. It wasn’t actually that hot given the warning. Having said that we did have to work around the heaping mounds of dried chilli and it did still leave a slight tingling. There was plenty of moist fish in there and it was a lighter alternative to the meats. Good choice.

But man alive! The portions are humongous. So much so the waitresses ask if you want doggy bags before taking the plates away. We said yes to that and also to the offer of free ice cream.

Next up was the other great thing about this place; the bill.  It was £29. Marvellous. 

If you haven’t been to Noodle Inn yet then you should try it.  Their takeaway is almost as good as their restaurant food, but be warned, they get busy so grab that table or make that order fast!

What’s your favourite Noodle place?  Do you have a favourite dish?  

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