It’s hard to know what to say about the Lagman Noodles at SamarQand. Firstly, both Rachael and I had got our impressions completely wrong. We were both imagining something a bit like a laksa, in a warming, coconutty broth and rich, oriental flavours. We hadn’t realised that this establishment, whilst Asian, wasn’t Oriental (if that makes sense) – it is, in fact, a Russian restaurant. Initial impressions were that it looks a bit like a (subterranean) hotel lobby, with comfy arm chairs around formal wooden tables. Zagat’s rating of 12/30 didn’t generate a great deal of optimism on my part.

“The beef was braised till very pleasantly tender, but was more texture than taste”

We started by sharing pirogi, which were beyond hot, reaching burning-the-roof-of-your-mouth territory. Pleasant enough, I’ve always seen these dumplings as homely rather than haute cuisine, and these examples didn’t change my mind.

The main course came, in relatively small bowls, with vinegar and (mild) chilli sauce to add as you might like. Rather than laksa, this was a clear beef and vegetable broth, with (handmade?) thin belt noodles. Stir-fry-sized strips of beef and thin slices of vegetables sat in the soup.

The problem was that, if I’m honest, there was barely any detectable flavour present. The broth was light and packed little punch – even with the addition of vinegar and chilli sauce. The beef was braised till very pleasantly tender, but was more texture than taste. The vegetables, likewise, had been boiled to within an inch of retaining any shape, and had lost any individual olfactory distinction.

The small bowl was filling enough, but we left feeling unsatisfied – as if we hadn’t really had a meal out at all. So desperate was the situation that we headed to MeatLiquor for a dessert – of deep fried pickles, buffalo wings and a shared Dead Hippy burger – all of which really hit the spot!