I was told that Lanzhou Noodle Bar was the place to get authentically hand-pulled noodles, and one Saturday after a bumper load of shopping in Chinatown, I stopped off for a quick lunch. I got there and I gazed suspiciously in the window at the orange gloopy buffet dishes glistening under heat lamps for so long that one of the waitresses poked her head out of the door to see if she could entice me in. She couldn't, until I tentatively asked 'la mian?' and she nodded enthusiastically.
The menu is vast, but you must ignore all of it (including the buffet) and made a noodle-based decision. One glance at the chap up front, slapping the oiled dough (snigger) down on the counter is enough to tell you that. They're available in soup, dry-tossed or fried. I ordered stewed beef which came in a vast bowl, chunks of beef bobbing around in a clear anise-spiced broth, ruddied by my application of chilli oil.
The noodles are really great. Chewy and elastic, generous in portion. The surroundings are basic; drinks are served in polystyrene cups and people are ushered along benches to wedge yet more people in. But for £6.50 for a more than ample lunch, I am not complaining - I am there for the noodles.
Lanzhou Noodle Bar (it just says Noodle Bar on the front, for those of us who can't read Chinese like me)
33 Cranbourne St,
London WC2H 7AD