Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Laksamania, Fitzrovia

Summer must be a difficult time for soup-based restaurants. Their job is to persuade the general London public that what they really want for lunch during a record-breaking heatwave is to sit down in a darkened room to a huge, steaming bowl of hot liquid and not, I don't know, go for a bit of sushi and an ice cream in the park. For my own part, I'm quite happy to eat weather-inappropriate meals as long as the air conditioning is strong enough (I had a steak & kidney pudding at Holborn Dining Room when it was 32degC outside) but would I queue up for ramen at Kanada-Ya, or chicken noodle soup at Tongue & Brisket, if it was cracking the flags? Probably not.

So despite recommendations coming in thick and fast for Laksamania over the last few weeks, I couldn't really entertain the idea of eating there until the temperature fell to something below "existential global climate crisis" levels. Fortunately some time during the middle of August the heavens opened, and I trudged through a downpour to Newman Street, where a healthy mix of tourists and local workers had sheltered from the unfamiliar - though most welcome - weather.

The problem with reviewing ultra-specialist, one-dish restaurants isn't so much that it's unfair to draw conclusions about a place based on one menu item - I can hardly do much else - but that the resulting blog post feels a bit thin. But then perhaps not every post needs to be a dozen paragraphs musing on the infinite complexities of life; this is a laksa restaurant, serving laksa, and I think as long as I tell you what the laksa is like I could consider it Job Done.

So yes, the laksa is good. I went for the Ipoh (a city in northwest Malaysia) variation, which had a good satisfying thickness, plenty of fresh seafood, robust slices of salty roast pork and (because why the hell not) half a boiled egg. In the grand scheme of things I would say it's better than the version they serve at Rasa Sayang in Chinatown, though £5 more than that, but not quite as good as the Khow Suey in Gymkhana, and I know that's Burmese and not Malaysian but it's a fairly similar concept. Also, the Gymkhana one comes as part of a £40 lunch so you'd expect that to have a bit more about it. A more obvious a hit of sambal (I think that's how they make it) in the Laksamania version and you would have had a lot more reason to recommend it, but it's still a pretty decent way of spending your lunch money in Fitzrovia.

And so I didn't have to base a whole review on just one bowl of food, I ordered a few sticks of chicken satay, which arrived in a heavenly cloud of charcoal smoke with a good peanut dip. So no problems there either. And service was utterly charming, attentive and friendly and happy to let some tables to linger and chat while bringing out my own food at the same time as the bill, as requested. The "VIP discount", by the way, was the 50% off food soft launch offer, a complete surprise but good for them.

As the nights close in and the temperatures drop further, there's every chance Laksamania will find a healthy local audience, although it should be noted this is a tricky part of town. Just further up Newman Street is a site which used to be the excellent Newman Street Tavern, turned into the very good indeed Dickie Fitz and is now in the process of being converted into a Mr Fogg cocktail bar, so nothing's guaranteed. But they're doing what they do well, and with heart, and probably deserve more than a shortish blog post by someone who has hardly a second clue about Malaysian food and a brutal score out of ten. So why not just go and try it for yourself?



Lizzie said...

it's 20% off lunchtime food :)

I love it and I've had almost all the laksa options now. The Penang Assam is my favourite.

Richard Dixon said...

Would be refreshing to think a place that opened quietly and with little fanfare could become a stalwart in due course.

Pasta Bites said...

I love a good laksa, this is an interesting one bowl restaurant, I guess laksa is taking over LondoN??