Thursday, 19 July 2018

SAMBAL SHIOK - THE BEST LAKSA IN TOWN


It’s not easy to find a one dish wonder in London - a single main course that is reasonably priced yet manages to wow you with its flavours, especially within a restaurant scene where it’s all about small plate sharing to maximise the flavours a paying customer can take in in one sitting.

I am therefore more than happy to report that I found one such spot with Sambal Shiok, a newly opened noodle bar with a special focus Laksa. Originally a hugely successful pop up run by Mandy Ying, who is of Malaysian born Chinese heritage and with that really knows her stuff, it quickly became a favourite amongst London foodies, so that it was luckily only a matter of time until they found a more permanent home.

Located a short walk from Highbury & Islington station on Holloway Road, it is close enough to my comfort east London zone but still not overrun by hipsters, with the area becoming something of a hotbed for cool new restaurants and wine bars popping up (probably because unlike anywhere in Shoreditch rents here are still vaguely affordable). You can book but only for groups of 4 or more so be strategic about what time you are planning to eat. We came in around 9:30pm on a Friday and they had a waitlist for the rest of night but on this occasion luckily two people just left their seats at the bar counter as we entered. You can actually leave your number and grab a drink while you wait for your table, so make sure you come early enough - the restaurant has only been open since June but just had a raving review by one of my favourite food critics for the Times, Giles Coren, so expect that this spot will very quickly become one of THE new foodie spots in London. And rightly so.

The menu might be concise focusing on different types of laksa that suit everyone, from vegans to meat eaters, plus a few starters and curries but you don’t really need more if what is served is so spot on. Apparently the fried chicken is stellar but we stuck to some moorish crackers to start before moving to the star of the show at Sambal Shiok - the laksa. I went for the prawn one (and what prawns, juicy and cooked to perfection as you seldom get in this country) with added aubergine and a cooked egg and with a mix of egg and rice noodles (again you can customise here). Despite our waiter's warning I also went for the “hot” rather medium broth option. I put the hot in quotation marks here as that was the only slight let down of the meal, the broth just missing that extra kick.


However that is minor quibble and perhaps my tolerance was just particularly high on that day because every other aspect of the soup was absolutely spectacular for the around £14 I paid with all the added extras. It not only looked amazing but was no doubt one of the finest noodles soups I’ve had in my life full stop and I haven’t shut up about the place to friends since finishing the meal. Another special mention also to their well curated wine list, focusing on German wines that never get enough credit, and the fantastic and attentive service by a team that you can tell truly loves what they serve. A wonderful new dining gem that proves that the restaurant scene in London is not quite dead yet!

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