Secret Streets: Dansey Place, Soho

IMG_7244
Image by Sam Rodgers

‘Refreshing’ may seem like an odd term to describe a Chinatown alley. Especially one ripe with the sweet, fetid odour of meat putrifying in sun-roasted binbags, and the glutinous, ammonia-tinged perfume of fresh noodles puffing through dusty ventilator shafts. But that’s exactly how I’d describe Dansey Place, a deliciously grimy and wonderfully authentic Chinatown alley that links Wardour Street and Dean Street. It’s quite literally like you’ve suddenly stepped into Beijing.

IMG_7228

Most visitors to Chinatown never make it down Dansey Place; at first glance, it seems like little more than a dumping ground for the surrounding restaurants. It’s completely overflowing with big black bins and flattened cardboard boxes inked with Chinese script.  Not that it’s ever seen better days; in the Thirties it was a popular location for illegal ‘bottle party’ nightclubs with names like Parody Club.

IMG_7223

But many local Chinese come here for Lo’s Noodle Factory, where you can fill a shopping bag with fresh noodles for £1.50. That’s not even the best part about the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hole in the wall. Once you put your order in you can glimpse the staff working the dough, twisting it and smacking it on the tiny worktop like a skipping rope. They then pull it between their fingers until perfect, identical strands of noodles emerge, as if by magic. They do a mean steam bun here too.

 

I am an equally big fan of the mini market on Dansey Place. Usually you’ll find rare fresh herbs in cute wooden boxes outside; everything from Thai sweet basil to lemongrass and fragrant white-budded Chinese chives. Inside, they also stock a surprisingly good range of Chinese jarred and pickled products, noodles, and Asian fruit like kumquats, lychee and custard apples for such a titchy place. Granted, there is no shortage of Chinese supermarkets in the area but I find it less frantic  and slightly cheaper than neighbouring options, and when I’m shopping for Chinese products I like to take my time and enjoy the experience.

IMG_7236

There’s something that really gets me about Young Cheng Fresh Seafood Shop, the third and final store on Dansey Place. I always feel like I’ve just landed in a Shanghai fish dock. I love the big white doors of the lock-up; it makes the store seem like a giant open fridge. Peer in properly and you’ll notice the tanks of live lobsters and crabs. I come here for the latter and also the exemplary whelks and clams displayed in the main counter – perfect for rustling up a seafood noodle soup. Sometimes I’ve noticed local restaurant staff turning up with their notebooks and calculators penning orders – if it’s good enough for Chinatown….

IMG_7245
Image courtesy of China Town

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s