The restaurant’s name Leong’s Legend is inspired by one of the most popular Chinese novels, The Water Margin, which features 107 heroes who gathered at Leong Mountain to fight a corrupt government during the Song dynasty, a thousand years or so ago. There was the cult 70s TV series called The Water Margin (sometimes called The Rebels of Liang Shang Po) which was set in China, made in Japan, dubbed into English but despite that it held millions of viewers riveted to their TV sets. Lin Chung, played by the handsome Atsuo Nakamura, was the Robin Hood-like lead character. Our Leong’s Legend is, however, found a little nearer home in the buzzy streets of Bayswater.
The restaurant is a vision of dark-wood slatted partitions and low-hung lamps with rattan shades. It is said to be reminiscent of traditional Chinese drinking dens. Quite a bit more charismatic than our equivalent. Murals of the aforementioned good-guys decorate the walls. A rack of martial arts weaponry adds to the ancient Chinese theme and discourages anyone from doing a runner before the bill arrives. The prices are so reasonable here that it’s not a likely scenario, although I’ll mention that a few of the spears seemed to be missing!
The stories of oriental daring-do are fascinating but you’ll visit for the food. We settled ourselves into one of the screened booths and pondered the menu. There was so much that was new. I guarantee that you’ll find dishes here that are scarcely found outside the Leong’s Legend Group. (There are a couple of sister restaurants in Chinatown.) Take the opportunity to taste these dishes to expand your epicurean horizons from China across that other water margin to the island of Taiwan.
Not only are the prices here competitive but the portions are substantial. Our neighbours were tucking into the Fried Bread Casket which looked intriguing. We will return to sample that on a future visit. We ordered Legend’s Siu Loung Bao as a starter. These were 8 large steamed dumplings with a dipping sauce. Rib-stickingly delicious and of the genre of dim sum with the integral stock bathing the filling. Bite with caution and let that hot broth baste your taste buds.
Kung Po Chicken has long been a favourite. The Leong’s Legend version was rich, glossy, red with whole chillies and vibrant in flavour. It’s a robust dish in every way. The chunks of meat were rustically chopped and large but moist and juicy. An ample scattering of cashew nuts provided crunch. Spectacular and well worth trying if you are a lover of chilli. Hot? Yes, but not overpoweringly so.
Taiwan Most Popular Omelette sounded promising. It’s a dinner-plate sized omelette stuffed with seafood and vegetables. It has a totally different texture from that of the eggy European omelette and was much more hearty. It’s rather glutinous with a slightly crispy edge. Order this to share as it’s more than a light side dish. It delivered filling in every bite.
A celebrated dish here is the Quick Fried Diced Beef with Garlic Slices. The cubes of meat were tender and well seasoned with freshly ground black pepper. The slices of garlic were golden and crisp. A dish to persuade any timid eaters that garlic doesn’t have to be pungent and overwhelming. The cooking method here imparts a full yet mellow garlic flavour.
Sticky Rice with Shredded Pork is a traditional Taiwanese delicacy. It has a comforting texture and is an ideal choice for those who are less skilled at wielding chop sticks. The short-grain rice is indeed sticky and has a unique texture. The large timbale of rice is topped with melting and flavourful pork, slow cooked with mushrooms. It’s an aromatic and memorable dish.
There wasn’t a lot of room left for dessert but we were tempted by the Mango Pudding and Almond Cake. The mango was a sunny mould of pudding with chunks of real fruit. The manager told us that it’s made fresh every day from real fruit. I was expecting the Almond Cake to be, well, a cake. It is in fact another variety of pudding. It’s white and creamy with a distinct almond flavour and comes with a little dish of evaporated milk as garnish. I don’t think it needs it.
Leong’s Legend Taiwan restaurant in Bayswater is the kind of restaurant where one can relax with a degree of privacy. It’s a spot popular with both Europeans and Chinese and that is surely a recommendation. It offers excellent food and value for money.
Asian restaurant review:Leong’s Legend Bayswater
82 Queensway, Bayswater, London W2 3RL
Tel: 020 7221 2280
Visit Leong’s Legend here
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018