It’s unlikely that you’d stumble across Numnum, tucked away under a railway arch in Southwark. If and when you find it, however, you’ll be rewarded with neon signs, lantern lighting, scalloped pink bench seating and wooden wall panelling. Complimentary green tea is served by friendly staff as you settle in and study the menu.
Numnum claims to serve ‘modern Southern Chinese wok-based, noodle and roasted chicken dishes’ – quite the mouthful. Happily the food on offer proves to be quite the mouthful too, with portions large and satisfyingly carb-based.
Dumplings are made from scratch, steamed then fried (the best combination) and served with a pretty punchy chilli oil; the pork and chive filling is wonderfully savoury. Roasted chicken is accompanied by a smashed cucumber salad which successfully cuts through the flavours of the crunchy deep-fried thigh, wing and drumstick, rubbed with curry powder and drizzled with honey. A box of plastic gloves saves sticky fingers, but is possibly not the thing to model on a first date.
Serving bone marrow with fried wild rice mixed with peppers suggests the chefs keep an eye on current food trends. It’s served in the bone, beside the rice, crunchy-topped and bubbling from the grill to be scooped out and stirred through for a luscious treat.
Not everything we tried was quite so sure-footed. Tender chunks of shin and still-crunchy pak choy bobbed in a warming beef noodle soup, but the stock lacked the depth of low and slow cooking, and we missed the promised Sichuan peppercorns altogether.
The bright lighting, wipe-clean tables and a less-than-subtle playlist mean that the evening ambience is rather lacking. And it’s worth noting that you can’t book and it’s closed at the weekend. But while you might not travel across London to seek out Numnum’s Chinese food, it’s the kind of place that would play the ideal host to a leisurely lunch or early dinner if you were passing by – Southwark tube is round the corner and the Old and Young Vic theatres down the road.