Restaurant review, 92 Noodle Bar, Ipswich: “Unfussy, authentic Chinese food.”

Restaurant review, 92 Noodle Bar Ipswich: The sweet and sour chicken was excellent.

Restaurant review, 92 Noodle Bar Ipswich: The sweet and sour chicken was excellent. - Credit: Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis found 92 Noodle Bar in Ipswich refreshingly different.

Restaurant review, 92 Noodle Bar Ipswich: Handmade noodles with vegetables.

Restaurant review, 92 Noodle Bar Ipswich: Handmade noodles with vegetables. - Credit: Archant

A year or so ago there was an explosion of Turkish-style grills in Ipswich. This year it’s Asian cuisine that’s making its mark. Recently opened are a small sushi bar (Lux), Japanese and Korean restaurant (Takayama), a new buffet restaurant (Papa Panda) and a Thai eatery will soon open in the former Vanilla Pod premises on Tackett Street.

I’d heard good things about 92 Noodle Bar, found just behind the main throng of the Waterfront on Fore Street so checked it out last week on my lunchbreak.

The menu for lunch was pleasingly small, bringing together plates of homemade noodles, broths, soups and rice. At less than £8 for a main meal and two sides, it was a steal.

It wasn’t too long before we were tucking in. I’d chosen what was pitched as authentic fried beef with spring onions in soy sauce.

Restaurant review, 92 Noodle Bar Ipswich: Handmade noodles with duck and vegetables.

Restaurant review, 92 Noodle Bar Ipswich: Handmade noodles with duck and vegetables. - Credit: Archant

The beef was velveted (coated in cornflour and seasoning before frying) giving it a soft, traditionally Chinese texture, and the flavour was savoury and moreish. It wasn’t too salty and didn’t seem to be pumped with MSG. I was impressed. The side dishes were unusual to say the least! The shredded potatoes with chilli were raw and kind of pickled in a buttery elixir. Not unpleasant but a flavour/texture I have never experienced from the root veg before. The pickled veg though were sweet with a bit of bite. Delicious.

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Also tried was the crunchy chicken in sweet and sour sauce. It really was crunchy and, like the other dishes, not greasy in the slightest. The sauce was incredibly well balanced. Lip smackingly good, and not artificial tasting as sweet and sour can often be.

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My friend chose the same potato side dish I did plus the seaweed with chilli. We were expecting that naughty-but-nice favourite of crispy fried seaweed, but what arrived was completely alien to us. Slimy in texture and with a flavour none of us could explain, it was a step too far for our over-westernised palates. There was nothing wrong with it, but its salinity and unfamiliar mouthfeel meant we left it pretty well untouched.

On the opposite side of the table was one plate of duck noodles and another of vegetarian noodles. Both had a smoky, umami, delicate flavour that put them amongst the best noodles we’ve tried. Duck and veg were plentiful and, again, chef hadn’t whacked in a load of salt.

We didn’t need puds – we were stuffed.

Drinks

There’s a simple drinks list. We were all on a work date so stuck to soft drinks which were fine.

Ambiance

A smallish restaurant with a homely feel. There’s no bells and whistles. It’s another of those ‘secret’ places that people will eventually discover and come back to time and time again.

Service

The lady serving our table was keen to please and very polite, but I wish we’d been told the food would come out staggered. My plate came out first and, having been brought up the right way, I sat impatiently, chopsticks in hand, inhaling the aromas wafting in front of me for a little while before my friends’ plates arrived. A plus side to this is we were all assured of the freshness of the food. We could hear the chef tossing the wok and clattering cutlery in the kitchen as they prepared each of our dishes from scratch.

Location

Just behind the Salthouse Hotel it’s in easy reach for revellers enjoying the bars on Ipswich’s Waterfront.

Parking

There’s no parking on site, but a few small and relatively inexpensive NCP car parks within a short walk.

Price

You can’t complain at all. The bill for four came to £35 and we were more than full afterwards.

Highlight

The sweet and sour chicken. It was just so well prepared and the sauce was incredible. If only every Chinese restaurant could make it this perfectly.

Summary

I don’t usually eat Chinese food – the additives and grease don’t sit well on my stomach. But I’ll be coming back to this place again for sure. The flavours of the ingredients spoke for themselves, and care had been taken in all aspects of preparation. We didn’t leave feeling like we’d had a naughty ‘dirty’ takeaway, but nourished and full.

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