Wednesday, 28 November 2018

LAKSAMANIA - AMAZING LAKSA IN CENTRAL LONDON


A short and sweet review today to tie in with my current laksa soup obsession. If you aren’t familiar with laksa, it is a spicy noodle soup popular in South East Asia (Malaysia and Singapore in particular) which features either a rich and spicy curry coconut milk or sour asam broth base, rice or egg noodles and either chicken, prawns or fish plus vegetables and sometimes an egg depending on where you have it. It’s a super comforting and flavourful bowl of goodness, perfect for this colder weather and I am honestly surprised how few restaurants are serving it up in London at the moment (though I have a feeling following the wave of ramen spots opening this could be the “next big thing”). 

I had a fair few fantastic laksas whilst in Singapore and began hunting for a good London alternative the minute I was back on British soil. I have previously reviewed Sambal Shiok in Holloway and honestly cannot fault their well-priced laksa offering, with my prawn version being seriously yummy and on par with what I had a 12 hour flight away. However, I don’t tend to venture that way too often and unfortunately- or indeed fortunately for the restaurant, the place has somewhat gotten discovered by the masses (I blame a rather excellent review in the Times by one of my favourite foodie critics Giles Coren), which means long queues even at early dining times during the week have become the norm now. I was more than intrigued therefore when a Singaporean friend of mine (shout out to Andrea from the Haute Heel for the intel here) mentioned Laksamania, just off Oxford street, which had a supposedly huge laksa offering, decent prices AND allowed you reserve a table.

With a central London Friday night occasion coming up I jumped at the chance to try Laksamania for myself, particularly when it was going to mean no risk of queuing for food on a Friday night, so me and my friend headed there straight after our musical had finished at around 9:45pm (be warned the restaurant takes last orders at 10pm so be sure to arrive before then if you are planning a late dinner or you will leave hungry). I have to say it may not be the most stand out dining environment, a pleasant and bright dining space over two floors, but judging by the crowd that dined there alongside us on the night who clearly were after a taste of home, it serves the real deal.

Indeed, the chef at Laksamania, Danny Tan, hails from Malaysia and comes from a family of well-known Hainese chefs, growing up amongst the diverse culinary influences of the region, and honed his skills in leading kitchens around Asia before coming to the UK. You can really tell this by the diverse menu, offering a vast range of laksa interpretations from all over South East Asia, with some added modern twists (deep fried soft shell crab laksa anyone?). It was almost too much choice, with us seriously struggling to pick just one laksa each on this occasion and I would 100% go back to explore more of the menu, particularly their Laksamania laksa which comes served with a giant tiger prawn and their amazing sounding starters.

In the end, I played it rather save and went for the Singapore laksa variety with which I had fallen in love with in the first place and boy was Laksamania’s take on it amazing! Served with juicy prawns, a mix of egg and rice vermicelli noodles, bean curd puffs, a soft-boiled egg, and the creamiest and spiciest of broths, which may have even slightly out-done the Sambal Shiok one in terms of depth, this was HEAVEN and I slurped the whole thing up quicker and less elegant than I should admit to. At £12.95 it was about 50p more expensive than Sambal Shiok but a decent price considering the large serving size and amount of prawns per portion.

Laksa dishes as a whole range from £12 to £17 depending on broth and add ons, which of course is no way as cheap as you can get in Singapore but in my opinion justified here if you consider the quality of cooking and the clean, spacious and calm dining environment you can enjoy them in. They also serve a wide range of other regional noodle and rice dishes, we also shared a classic Nasi Goreng, Malaysia’s national rice dish which features prawns, crispy anchovies, shredded lettuce and sambal and is topped with a fried egg and which turned out to be a super comforting and flavourful dish that even I as someone who usually hates rice really enjoyed, and also have a huge vegan friendly section.

Wine was also excellently priced (we shared a bottle of their white which considering we were dining off Oxford Street had a very decent £18 price tag for the bottle) and service was super attentive, informative and fast. In fact, one would have never guessed we were dining a mere meters away from London’s worst tourist shopping street and altogether it was one of the least stressful dining experience I have had in Central London. Laksamania is authentic and unpretentious and serves some seriously good food at very decent prices. Even if you haven’t tried laksa for yourself yet, If you are in Central London and are seeking winter comfort I say stay away from your usual Ramen spot and give this place a go, I think you’ll be a convert like me in no time.