Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

Love noodles? Try Zen Noodle Bar…

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What’s your go-to comfort food on a cold, blustery day? What’s the one food that’ll guarantee to warm you up and get you feeling human again?

For me, a steaming bowl of noodle soup – preferably nice and spicy – will generally do the trick. On a chilly December morning, as a reward for finishing the majority of my Christmas shopping after the boy had been packed off to school, I treated myself to a trip to Zen Noodle Bar in Bury St Edmunds.

Tucked away on Angel Lane, a little road behind the Angel Hotel, Zen Noodle Bar is a pretty unassuming single-storey building from the outside. Inside, though, it’s a different matter.

 

 

I arrived just 20 minutes after they opened for lunchtime service and there were already four tables of diners, with another large party arriving shortly after I ordered. With so many tables free I was a little surprised to be sat right next to a table of two, just a foot in between us, but never mind.

It’s a beautiful restaurant: sleek and smart with lime green menus, black and white walls and plenty of tables (although the bench-style seating means that some diners do sit a little close for comfort). At the back of the room, the semi-open plan kitchen is divided from the dining room by a wooden screen, but the clattering, sizzling and shouting from the busy kitchen can still be heard clearly.

 

 

At £2 for a small mug, the jasmine tea that I ordered while choosing my food seemed a little steep, but it was perfectly fragrant and certainly began to thaw me out. I don’t know if I was slower to order than most or if the staff were simply in a hurry, but I was asked for my food order incredibly quickly after arriving without having the chance to have a good browse of the menu.

With multiple wok-fried noodle dishes, noodle soups and rice dishes to choose from – as well as an extensive selection of sides – it’s a menu that needs careful consideration before ordering! Feeling like something with a decent level of heat, I eventually decided on the tom yum vermicelli (£15.50) with a side of the chicken gyoza (£6.30), after hearing the table next to me raving about them.

 

 

The raving about the gyoza from the table next door? Totally justified. Five plump, crisp, fried dumplings arrived at my table, accompanied by plenty of soy for dipping. The crunch of the shell gave way to beautifully tender herb-spiked minced chicken, the flavour deliciously salty and sweet. The limp salad underneath wasn’t really necessary.

 

 

The real star of the show on this trip was the tom yum vermicelli, though. While a little oily, the broth itself was rich, fragrant and lip-tinglingly fiery: packed full of massive, bold flavours. There were plenty of chewy noodles at the bottom, and a huge variety of additional ingredients.

The roast pork was incredible: tender, sweet and plentiful. There were slivers of earthy mushroom and hidden beansprouts. There were meaty king prawns, soft and spongy fish balls and squid – which was beautifully cooked, but there were just two pieces.

What I hadn’t expected from the menu description were the thick slices of salty fishcake and the shredded crabsticks, which were a nice surprise.

 

 

With main courses priced between around £12 and £15, Zen Noodle Bar is pricier than many of its local competitors. However, with its vast range of dishes, its punchy flavours and its welcoming environment, I’m more than happy to spend £25 on a return visit.

 

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