New Years Day. The clock strikes midday and the world is asleep. Well, not everyone’s asleep I suppose given that our planet revolves on an axis that bends the time continuum (it hasn’t quite mastered space yet, unlike Hiro Nakamura). Someone, somewhere, is awake.
For someone like me, someone who happens to know a lot of people who live on the other side of the planet, the bending of the time continuum is a right pain in the behind. This is especially so for me, because I have a handful of friends who don’t seem to grasp the concept of timezones.
Time. Zones. That 4pm in the afternoon for you, is not 4pm in the afternoon for me. Not even close.
But I digress. It’s midday on New Years Day, a new decade, 2010. The world London is asleep and I’m hungry.
It hadn’t really occurred to me that New Years Day was going to land on a Friday, a day when I’m usually at work suffering a death by Pret baguette and aching for home time when we usually grab dinner out. I hadn’t bought any food for Friday, and at midday when I finally dragged my sorry butt out of bed, I realised that We. Don’t. Have. Food.
After a minor panic attack which involved me desperately asking the wise twitterati for guidance, it dawned on me that really, why did I panic? There’s no need for panic at all, and do you know why?
Because dude, there are Chinese people in this world. There is Chinatown down my street. And do you know why this is news of the most awesomeness degree?
Because Chinese people, they don’t take holidays. Not even public holidays. Not for Christmas or Good Friday or calendar New Years. Heck, not even for Chinese New Year because that is an even bigger reason to celebrate and eat! They eat, all the time, 24 hours a day if they could. Just look at me.
And so at midday on New Years Day, when the rest of London was asleep, I hauled myself through the cold down to Leong’s Legends for a nice hot dim sum lunch.
Leong’s Legends (and its aptly named offspring Leong’s Legends Continues) is located on Macclesfield Street, adjacent to the hustling main drag of Gerrard Street (Leong’s Legends Continues is around the corner on Lisle Street). From the outside, it appears like a 16th century Chinese building, with solid dark wood walls, doors, panelling, everything. Through the heavy doors, the interior is much the time and you’re instantly transported back to the old days of Taiwan.
So on New Years Day it was maybe 1 degree celsius, and that’s me being generous. It was actually just flucking freezing. Beating the lunch rush by a whisker, we sat and ordered copious amounts of all things small and round and steaming hot, plus some green things and a serve of sticky rice.
The dumplings (some steamed some boiled) were collectively delicious ~ they are actually adorably tiny, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to dim sum, and more importantly, these tiny packages pack a flavour punch which satisfied my dumpling whims and then some. We had the usual har gau (prawn dumplings) and also tried some garlic & chive and spicy dumplings, which were surprisingly spicy and hot tea, my friends, does not calm a tongue on fire. Lesson learned.
We also ordered a couple of serves of greens ~ broccoli cooked with garlic and dried anchovies and pea shoots, also cooked in garlic. ‘Tis not often I am impressed with vegetables, I mean veg is veg, is it not? But Leong’s Legends somehow cooks their vegetables in such a way that causes me to pause, taste, think and agree with myself that wow, goddamn that tastes good! I think it’s in the sauce. And their utter generosity with garlic, because you can never really get enough garlic.
But the dumplings and vegetables were hardly the stars of the show. A Leong’s Legends specialty, and I think why people come from far and wide, is their xiao long bao ~ tiny steamed buns filled with meat and steaming soup. The Leong’s Legends xiao long bao has a particularly thick skin, and at first I was a little unimpressed with this but really, a little thick skin ain’t so bad when you consider that the alternative is breaking the skin and losing the valuable soup.
I have no finesse. I’ll take thick skin any day.
The xiao long baos are tasty. Really really tasty. I’m guessing the secret’s in the soup ~ which is essentially melted solid meat gelatin which lines the insides of the buns. Ah, someone’s been reading up on wiki. Anyway, really flavoursome, really glad the skin is thick, really happy I didn’t puncture any buns with my chopsticks.
We also had the standard yum cha orders of fried turnip paste and char siu cheung which were good and the black sheep for the day was sticky rice with BBQ pork. I expected a BBQ pork version of lo mai gai, but what I got was a tower of sticky rice, topped with shredded BBQ pork and covered in a very odd, very sweet sauce. Not a fan, and still weirded out right now thinking about it.
All in all Leong’s Legends satisfied as it promised and the fact that it appeased my New Years Day hunger and gave my year a lovely foodie kick start won it infinitely more brownie points. I’ll be back.
4 Macclesfield Street
London, W1D 6AX
0207 287 0288