As restaurants and businesses continue to struggle against the backdrop of Covid-19 uncertainty, it is always encouraging to see new eateries with a fresh outlook open up in Coventry.
Bib Noodle Bar in Fargo Village offers hand-pulled noodles to order – prepared right in front of you – fresh dumplings and authentic regional Chinese cuisine with a twist.
The food served at Bib Noodle Bar, which is a product of husband and wife team Qifen Bi and Bradley Hemple, draws on regional cuisine inspired by flavours from Qifen’s home province of Yunnan in China.
The couple first opened the restaurant’s doors three days before the Covid-19 lockdown hit. They resurfaced in late summer as people flocked to enjoy the Government’s ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme.
The hidden gem has survived their first few months of operating, bringing something completely unique to the Coventry food scene.
And with prices coming in at £6 for a full bowl of noodles and rice bowls ranging from £5.50 to £7.50, we don’t expect it to stay quiet for long.
We visited on a drizzly Sunday afternoon and found the noodle bar empty, but were soon made to feel at home and welcome by the couple who went to great lengths to explain how they came about, and the meaning behind their food.
They re-frame the classics that we’ve come to know and love like sweet and sour chicken, and chicken noodle soup, bringing to the table fresh alternatives that make you wonder why you’ve never eaten them like this before.
There is some indoor seating in the container (around four seats) which allowed us to eat within our household bubble, and there is also a new outdoor covered eating area which allows for you to eat out within Covid-19 restrictions if you did want to meet someone outside.
What’s on the menu?
The speciality Biang Biang hand-pulled noodles come in meat options like pork, chicken and beef, and for vegetarians there are shiitake mushrooms.
There are also twice cooked (steamed and fried) dumplings, which come with either pork, corn and peas, Chinese yam or mushroom and carrot.
And rice bowls are also on the menu, with options o including braised pork belly and vegetables, and sides of pickled chicken feet, sweet potato jelly, smashed cucumber salad and potato salad.
What we ate
Eating in our household bubble, the two of us were able to eat inside where we got a front row seat to the action.
After a comprehensive chat through the menu with both Bradley and Qifen, we opted for shiitake mushroom biang biang noodles, pork biang biang noodles, pea and corn dumplings, pork dumplings, and were kindly given a complimentary smashed cucumber salad and braised pork belly by Qifen.
Yes, we were pretty hungry.
Despite this optimistic ordering, we managed to eat the majority of what we were served, taking whatever we had leftover for those at home.
It is clear from the outset that the couple are passionate about their business, perhaps shown by the fact that Bradley works his 9-5 job on top of joining wife Qifen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday when the restaurant is open.
They are constantly changing their board of specials, so you’ll be in for a surprise when you visit or get a takeaway.
Biang Biang Noodles: A highlight of the visit was watching the biang biang noodles getting expertly pulled, thrown, and rolled around by Qifen in front of our eyes. The biang biang noodles were a delicious base to our accompaniments, thick but not stodgy and very fresh.
The shiitake mushrooms retained all of their flavour, were chewy but firm despite absorbing the spices in the dish, and were complemented brilliantly by the spinach, broth and spring onion. So simple, not trying to do too much, and a filling dish. Similarly the pork biang biang noodles offered the same, with the pork element being minced.
We were kindly given sides of pork belly (melt in the mouth) and crushed cucumber salad (tangy and flavoursome) to eat on the side.
Dumplings: If you’re a vegetarian there are ample options for you here, and the pea and corn dumplings were a great starter for any veggie lover. They actually steam and then fry the dumplings, searing the outside but retaining the moisture of the filling. Nicely done. Similarly the pork dumplings were great, and the soy dipping sauce was a nice addition.
Speaking to CoventryLive about their new venture, Ms Bi said: “We’re always cooking at home and we have Chinese a lot, I love eating and cooking it, I grew my own vegetables in the garden.”
She added: “Our concept is home grown, fresh and homemade, with some very traditional recipes from my village [in China] so we can share this different experience with other people.”
Mr Hemple added: “When we nailed down the recipes [for the menu] it was like ‘wow, this is pretty spectacular, maybe this is something we should try’, hence why we’re at Fargo, who gave us the opportunity to trial this to see if people actually like the concept.”
Bib Noodle Bar has struck the right balance between offering few but solid choices, experimenting through their specials board to showcase their skills, and introducing something new and exciting to Coventry.
Now is the time when we could do with a smile on our faces, and it was great to see a fairly new business on the foodie scene excited about what they can bring to the table.
Coventry is well served for Asian food, with Korean, Chinese, and Japanese all on tap within the radius of the ring road.
Yet Bib Noodle Bar is something different. They’re still the new kid on the block and are making sure they get it right before spreading themselves too thin, but I look forward to visiting again to see how they’ve progressed.
I would definitely visit again, and now the feeling of being food drunk has worn off, I would still give Bib Noodle Bar a 10/10.
Bib Noodle Bar is based in container 12 at Fargo Village. You can eat in or takeaway.
Their opening hours are: Friday and Saturday 12 – 8:.30pm and Sunday 11am – 4pm
You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram: @bibnoodlebar