For punters walking along the pedestrianised section of Merrion Street in Leeds’s thriving Northern Quarter, there are no shortage of places that catch the eye.
There’s barbecue and ping pong joint The Pit for food and a host of places such as Mojo and Verve for drinking and dancing, if that’s what you’re after.
Recent arrival Noodle House, with its bright yellow frontage and largely obscured windows, is far from the street’s most obvious attraction. But as Little Oliver discovered recently, it’s well worth seeking out.
The site has had a number of incarnations in recent years, and has previously been Chini Indian and Tripti Asian Restaurant before the current operators moved in.
On stepping inside, Noodle House looks more like a takeaway than an actual restaurant. Simply, yet brightly decorated, with pop music playing in the background, it has photos of the food on the walls and a big TV facing outwards rather than into the restaurant.
No alcohol is served, but there is a selection of cold drinks in the fridge and some more unusual choices, such as coconut water, in among the more obvious options.
Service is as quick as you like. Five minutes after walking up to the counter, behind which staff are chopping up duck and pork less than a metre away, our food is called out.
It’s reassuring to see the meat being prepared in front of you, and the air of the place is more like the restaurants you would find in a big city Chinatown than the anglicised versions that proliferate on many high streets.
With the menu available in Mandarin and English, there’s a wealth of options ranging from rice dishes and freshly made noodles to ‘Malaysian Kampung Style’ cuisine and stir fry. Many of the items describe ‘roasties’, which we can only assume are roasted meats rather golden brown roast potatoes.
Despite the temptation of choosing a suckling pig, priced at £133, we opt for three different dishes. First up is a simple but generous portion of beautifully roasted duck, with crispy skin, moist and flavoursome meat and served with rice. We had to pick out the bits of bone, which doesn’t happen at most Chinese restaurants, but you get more flavour as a result.
Dumpling noodles were good, and though I wasn’t a huge fan of the slightly bland noodles themselves, the dumplings were full of flavour.
The rogue option, Nasi Lemak, is the national dish of Malaysia and comprises rice, a spicy sauce, peanuts, fried chicken, half a boiled egg and some slices of cucumber. Not knowing what to make of such seemingly diverse ingredients on a plate, I try to get as much of each on my fork in one go as I can.
Valiantly ignoring a couple having a venomous, yet quiet, argument behind us as we eat, it’s an enjoyable experience, with three courses, all sizeable, and two drinks coming in at under £19. Despite fast food options being two a penny on nearby streets, it’s not hard to see Noodle House carving out a niche for itself.