★★★★☆ / Chinese / Chinese Dumplings / Chinese Noodles

Xi’an Impression review – cheap Arsenal Chinese scores a hattrick

Cheap Chinese regional mega bites reviewed in rhyming couplets and haiku

I’ve written before how about the under-representation of China’s numerous regional cuisines in London’s restaurants. If you needed a singular, illustrative example of the effects of that disappointing trend then it would be noodles. Veal Smasher and Happy Buddha have had to put up with my rants about the generally poor state of Chinese noodles in Britain many times, with much of the country knowing little else beyond the awful dried, straight-to-wok ‘chow mein’ style wheat noodles. Some of London’s Chinese restaurants fare better than most, with a wider but still limited selection of rice, egg/lye and wheat flour noodles with plant starch noodles harder to find.

Xi’an Impression is one of the very few restaurants in the capital specialising in food from the north western city of Xi’an and the wider Shaanxi province, including some truly splendid noodles you’d struggle to find elsewhere. Situated literally opposite the Arsenal Emirates stadium, it’s a brightly lit BYOB (bring your own booze joint), but also cramped. Xi’an Impression has been reviewed authoritatively elsewhere, both in other blogs and in the national papers, so I’ve decided to embark on a whimsical experiment.

Much like my review of Tayyabs in haiku, I’m reviewing Xi’an Impression in a very rough mix of rhyming couplets and haiku. My GCSE literature teacher would be appalled, but life is too short to take everything with profound seriousness and this unconventional review indulges my (very bad) inner sixth-form poet. Plus it will annoy pedants, comment trolls, poetry haters and other halfwits lacking in imagination – always a plus. Let’s begin:

Chunky chilled cucumber; Refreshing rinds
But garlic sauce with little force

smacked cucumber with garlic sauce at xi'an impression

Smacked cucumber.


Ear-shaped fungus, supple and taut
Chilli coriander sour sauce, slurping it all – almost caught

black fungus at xi'an impression

Black fungus.


Beef-filled bun, lots of fun
Spicy mince, flat griddled neutral baps
Moist and fine, like your mother’s flaps

beef burger at xi'an impression

Described on the menu as a beef ‘burger’.

beef bao at xian impression arsenal holloway road

Which I guess is the closest English term. It’s not a gua bao, by the way.


Pork bun, looks the same
But moreish garlic sauce isn’t tame
Veal Smasher thought it was a bao
Despite his mistake, it still made him say wow

pork burger at xi'an impression

I guess ‘sandwich’ would seem a bit odd on a dinner time menu.


Fried dumpling skins open at both ends
Meaty pork and umami seaweed – Happy Buddha say amen!

fried pork and seaweed dumplings at xi'an impression

Fried pork and seaweed dumplings.


Pork and veg dumplings, ordered on a whim
Skins, so supple and thin
Meh filling is a sin
Vinegar is there for dipping in

steamed pork and vegetable dumplings at xi'an impression

Steamed pork and vegetable dumplings.


Biang biang noodles so thick and wide
Taut and spicy, down they slide
Also bok choy
Templeton Peck says ‘oh boy!’

biang biang noodles in chilli sauce with bok choy at xi'an impression

Biang biang noodles with bok choy.


More thick noodles, just as fine
Chunks of chicken, bone and skin
Gamey funk, what a way to dine
Moreish sauce, for the win

stir fried chicken with hand pulled noodles at xi'an impression

With added potato for some reason.


Lovely broth, beefy stock
Doughy and fluffy cubes of bread
Like gnocchi, do not mock
Add chilli and garlic for a lovely spread

xi'an bread in beef broth at xian impression

Behold, bread in beef broth. Also known as paomo.


Yikouxiang, half hour wait
Slippy disc noodles, simple as a saint
Sauce, mildly spicy and tart
It won’t make you faint, unless you’re an old fart

yikouxiang in traditional spicy sauce at xi'an impression



Anglicised salt and pepper squid
Vicious Alabaster ordered, behind my back
Chewy and bland, not worth your quids
Made me wretch, ugh like gack!

salt and pepper squid at xi'an impression



The Verdict

Xi’an Impression isn’t the glossiest or the most comfortable restaurant and while it is cheap, this is largely due to the inexpensive ingredients and cheap cuts of meat used. Still, the kitchen can clearly do a lot with a little, knocking out some sublimely crafted dishes full of flavour and character. The noodles and bread broth, in particular, are worthy of high praise and clearly products of skilled practice. It’s superlative Chinese food you’ve probably not encountered elsewhere in London. Bring good friends and even better drink and have a rollicking good time.

What to orderYikouxiang; Black fungus; Open-ended dumplings; Beef and pork ‘burgers’; Biang biang noodles; Bread in beef broth

What to skipAnything from the anglicised classics ‘Other’ section of the menu


Name: Xi’an Impression

Address117 Benwell Road, London N7 7BW

Phone0203 441 0191


Opening Hours: seven days a week 11:30 – 22.00. 

Reservations: highly recommended (there are only around 20 covers or so)

Average cost for one person excluding soft drinks and tip: £20 approx. 


Xi'an Impression Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

11 thoughts on “Xi’an Impression review – cheap Arsenal Chinese scores a hattrick

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