PRON, The People’s Republic of Noodles, is as tongue-in-cheek and fun a restaurant as the name suggests, which adds to Linden’s reputation as a foodie haven. Chef-restaurateur Emma Chen (of upmarket Red Chamber in Hyde Park) serves Chinese food from her childhood here – unpretentious and generous – to a packed restaurant of grateful patrons.
The spring-onion-flecked hand-break bread is the best way to start, as you pore over the small menu, which is divided into tapas and noodles. Both sections are perfect for sharing, and the orders arrive with rapid-fire speed. The refreshing cucumber salad is served in wedges with shredded tofu and has a chilli kick that builds in intensity. The pig-ear salad, a lovely combination of crunchy, savoury and herbal, is a classic made with care and often recommended by a smiling chef Chen, who can be seen doing the rounds between tables in the evenings.
The tender char sui pork slices and the fried green beans are a great choice, adorned with home-made chilli oil served on each table. Bowls of noodles are enormous and often enough for two if you’re also sharing a range of tapas. The cold summer beef noodles and the vegetarian bowl with chewy seaweed are favourites. For dessert order the fabulous chocolate tart with chilli.
There’s a small wine list and a few quirky cocktails and beers, like the Lucky Buddha in a bottle fashioned after its namesake. Roasted coconut water and aloe juice are good options for teetotallers.
Service is fast, bright and efficient most nights.
This is a fun, loud spot with flowery red plastic tablecloths and a wall of “made-in-China” products. It’s kitsch but cool, and fills up with tables of friends and lovers.
It’s best to book in advance. The items in the wall of goodies, which range from packets of White Rabbit sweets to soy sauce and chopsticks, are all for sale.
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Emma Chen, chef and owner of the renowned The Red Chamber in Hyde Park, is now recreating food from her childhood in her new establishment, PRON, the People’s Republic of Noodles. Expect a small menu with dishes that don’t normally make an appearance on the average Chinese menu, so nothing is deep fried or smothered in sweet-and-sour sauce.
Emma will guide you on choices to suit you palate and explain the concept of this street-food-style menu. Small tapas dishes and hearty homemade noodle dishes are perfectly designed for sharing. A serving of the ‘hand-break-bread’, a layered, flaky flatbread filled with fresh spring onion and salt, is an absolute must. (We couldn’t help devouring the first one before the food came, knowing full well that it was intended as an accompaniment to the other dishes.) This is the stuff bread dreams are made of!
It was followed by three outstanding dishes: Szechuan-chilli chicken with peanut sauce and sprouts; dry-fried green beans with black-bean paste; and the intriguing pig-ear salad. I’m all for trying everything once, and enjoyed the taste and the interesting texture of the pig’s ear, which was thinly sliced and marinated, served cold, and mixed with a coriander salad – perfect for the adventurous palate. Vegetarians can try the tofu and cucumber; potato salad with a twist; or the tofu noodles with leek.
The handmade noodles are the true legend here – the perfect consistency of al-dente noodles served with of a hearty broth of tofu and vegetables, pork or spicy beef. My top choice is the Chaashou pork, comprising slices of marinated, barbeque-style pork with a clear broth, topped with spring onion and a generous helping of homemade chili oil. It’s perfect comfort food to warm the soul. The restaurant is only a few weeks old, so Emma is still working on dessert options to end the meal. She also assured me that the menu will change regularly.
The wine list is compact and well-priced, with a few well-known wines available by the carafe. There’s only one beer on the menu, the Lucky Buddha, in its cool Buddha-shaped bottle. Also on offer are a few interesting cocktails, like the Manchurian scorpion and five-star frosted martini, as well as exotic drinks like roasted coconut juice and aloe juice.
Emma is ever-present, moving between the restaurant and kitchen, making you feel welcome, and explaining her dishes. Attentive and well-trained staff members assist her in making sure you have a seamless culinary experience.
This is a quirky, brightly coloured and fun space, filled with shelves stocked with Asian ingredients that can be purchased. A large bookcase crammed with toys and goodies that can best be described as ‘Made in China’ lines one of the walls.
They have a private dining room down a magic staircase, which is ideal for a cosy dinner party. It seats 10 people, with mirrored walls and a lazy Suzan to facilitate sharing.