Confession time – I never know where to go in London for good Chinese food. I can give you some awesome Italian suggestions and I can list half a dozen places where you can fill your face with tacos in a way that is unladylike yet thoroughly understandable but decent Chinese food has always eluded me.
Until my gorgeous friend L took pity on my persistent pleas for help and spirited me away to a place where the noodles are hand pulled, the booze is BYO (hands up if you’re in already) and the vibe is decidedly understated. That’s right kids, it’s all about Holloway Road right now, specifically Xi’an Impression opposite the Emirates Stadium.
Bringing the flavours of Shan Xi Province, home to Xi’an City and incidentally-and-completely-unrelated-to-food-but-a-nice-piece-of-pub-quiz-trivia the Terracotta Warriors, to North London, this place is a total hole in the wall that, unless you have a friend like L in your life, you’d probably never stop at and I mean that as the highest compliment.
Unassuming and low-key in the extreme, staff are friendly and totally chilled about sharing their tips from the menu and although the table turnover around us was pretty high on our recent visit, we were never once rushed or made to feel as though we needed to make way for a second wave of people looking to get their noodle fix.
Ease your way into dinner with a couple of picks from the street food segment of the menu; the Xi’an Cold Noodles and the Xi’an Beefburger should both be confident and definite orders. Light, fresh & soft, the noodles come soaked in a deeply savoury chilli-tomato oil and pair nicely with crisp cucumber matchsticks.
Rocking up in what is undoubtedly the love child of a crispy, toasted bun and a soft, squidgy-middled bao, the steak inside the beefburger is hot, spicy and quite literally mouth watering. We had one to share; frankly, I could easily have polished off three on my own.
Now you’ve gently stretched out your stomach, it’s time to get down with whole reason for being there. No, I don’t actually mean the BYO wine that you arrived clutching in your un-named corner shop carrier bag. Actually, to be fair, we didn’t even class it up that much. One bottle into one handbag. Done. But I digress…you should have been lubricating yourself with grape juice or happy hoppy liquor for a while by this point. The reason for you being there is the beautifully supple & silky noodles.
Portions are ample for sharing and the biangbiang arrive piled high in satiny stacks on a plate slick with chilli sauce. Be prepared for the fact you’ll end up wiping spatters of deeply fragrant, spicy oil off the face of the lovely people you’re dining with – probably not ideal for a first date kind of situation but taking someone here would totally guarantee you a second one.
If you’ve ever shared my concern that the search for spectacular noodles would require you to trawl through Chinatown like a selfie-stick-toting tourist lost in their A-Z, fear no more. Take an adventure on the Northern Line and lose yourself in an unexpected noodle wonderland.