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Sambal Shiok

Restaurants, Malaysian Holloway Road
4 out of 5 stars
 (Angela Sam)
Angela Sam
 (Angela Sam)
Angela Sam
 (Angela Sam)
Angela Sam
 (Angela Sam)
Angela Sam

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A street food stall- turned-permanent north London laksa bar.

There’s been a lot of buzz about this north London ‘laksa bar’ and it’s easy to see why. First of all, it started life as a street food stall, as many of the capital’s coolest restaurants do. Secondly, it’s fun: a London take on a backpacker café, with vibrant colours, effervescent staff and mainstream pop on a loop (Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ played twice in an hour). Third, it’s cheap.

As for the food, much of it is great. The strongest dishes are the mains, which Kuala Lumpur-born lawyer-turned-chef Mandy Yin has clearly honed. Rich and intense, the beef rendang also had a slightly sweet edge, which won’t be to everyone’s taste, but you can’t argue with the glorious softness of the meat. But the most memorable thing here is, predictably, the laksa. You can have it plain or pimped, with extra chicken, prawns, veg or egg. Order it plain: it’s best – and best-value – at its most basic, which includes puffy, satisfyingly chewy strips of tofu (delicious), rice or egg noodles (comforting, if a tad soft and bland) all set in or on the rich, swirling red of a fiery, fragrant, coconutty base. There was a small heap of pickled cucumber to one side, so good they should offer it as a main course. If you must add extras, go with chicken rather than prawn (more flavour), half a soft egg or strips of charred aubergine (delicious again).

The smaller dishes needed tweaking. Fenugreek crackers were insanely good – get lots – but the Malaysian fried chicken needed seasoning and the peanutty dressing of the vegan gado gado salad was a little sweet.

So, not quite culinary perfection. But a guaranteed good time? Absolutely.


Address: 171 Holloway Rd
Transport: Tube: Holloway Road
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £65.
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