Ed Marshall / Time Out
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Fri Nov 2 2012
Naamyaa in Islington is a blueprint for a new oriental restaurant chain. It’s beautifully designed, well-priced, and – in the opening weeks – filled with consultants scrutinising and fine-tuning the details.
On my visits, I witnessed Alan Yau poring over the details with front-of-house staff, while David Thompson flipped stir-fries and ran between woks. The last time restaurateur Yau (who created Wagamama) and chef Thompson (of the recently closed Nahm) worked together was when they created Busaba Eathai in 1999. This explains the many similarities between Busaba and Naamyaa – it’s a sister brand, run by the same parent company, and many of Naamyaa’s staff are ex-Busaba.
Naamyaa’s interior is pure Yau – sleekly modern, with beautiful detailing, evocative of a pipe dream of the East without the squalor. And the menu is recognisably Thompson – the chef who has devoted his life to researching, cooking, teaching and writing the definitive textbooks on Thai food.
Thai food enthusiasts will be thrilled by this menu, just as novices might be intimidated. The Naamyaa set meals mean you order beef, chicken, prawn or veg, and the kitchen does the rest. Kanom jin – soft, thin rice noodles served at room temperature – are topped with a curry-like sauce of your choice. The side salads might include pickled morning glory, beansprouts, chinese leaves, starfruit and sweet basil to vary the textures and flavours to your own taste.
Yam pak is a savoury fruit salad, and this variation uses sweet tamarind dressing and sesame seeds to great effect, with green mango, radicchio and even dried chillies. The green papaya salad – som tam – is one of the best versions in London, but beware the heat, as there’s a Russian-roulette quality to the chillies used.
Not all the dishes are Thai. The array of small plates covers Japanese, Malaysian and Chinese dishes. Jasmine tea-smoked baby back pork ribs is a Cantonese dish inspired by the version at Hakkasan, one of Yau’s previous projects. It’s one of the highlights of the menu.
The oddest feature is the smattering of Western dishes. Burgers with chips, caesar salad and salade niçoise might be truly international dishes, but they sit uneasily on this pan-oriental menu.
Bookings are not taken and queues seem likely once word gets around. A branch is already planned for Shoreditch.
PS when this review was originally researched and written, at the start of December 2012, chef David Thompson was still working in the kitchen. We returned one week after Thompson had left to return to Thailand, and – ordering many of the same dishes – found that the flavours were more muted. Some dishes were also less carefully prepared – the noodles had been left sitting and were served a little claggy, and a dessert of coconut and pandanus was ill-conceived - the pandanus layer too hard, the coconut disintegrating, resulting in a pudding that quickly became a mess. However, these are minor quibbles, and can still thoroughly recommend Naamyaa – only now with four stars. - Guy Dimond 20 December 2012
Naamyaa Café Angel Building
- Cross Street:
407 St John St
020 3122 0988
- Opening hours:
Open 9am-11.30pm Mon-Sat; 10am-11pm Sun.
Tube: Angel tube or bus 38
Main courses £7.50-£10.50. Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £60.
- Angel Building
- 020 3122 0988
- Angel Building
- Naamyaa Café
Eating and drinking facilities. Café