Laksamania (London, June 2018)

There are many things that make living in London superior to living in Minnesota—better theatre, museums full of colonial loot, amazing parks, great cheese, proper public transportation, the lack of polar vortexes (and 18 months of winter more generally) etc. etc.. It should be said though that while the food scene is generally far superior it is not consistently so: the Twin Cities metro has better Mexican and Thai food and our Sichuan is not far behind either. However, when it comes to Malaysian food, London is in a different league; to be fair it’s far ahead of any city in the US in that regard.

In one of my reviews from 2017 I noted why this should be so: the Malaysian diasporic population in the UK is far larger than that of the US and is concentrated in a much smaller area. As with South Asian cuisines and populations, these disparities—of demographics and food quality—have to do with colonialism. You can basically tell which first world countries (neo)-colonized which third world countries by looking to see which immigrant cuisines are the best there. As unfortunate as the historical reasons are, it does mean that London has very good Malaysian food compared to anywhere in the US, and as we love Malaysian food and get very few opportunities to enjoy it here we eat it in London every chance we get. 

On our previous, much longer trip, we ate on a number of occasions at C&R and at the end of the trip at Rasa Sayang—both in Chinatown. We knew we wanted to go back to Rasa Sayang on this trip but instead of going to C&R again as well we decided to try a new place. This new place was Laksamania. And at the time it was quite literally new. They were still in their soft launch phase, offering a 20% discount at lunch. There were not very many people there the day we visited and so I am glad to see that they’re still in business and that this is not a posthumous review.

Laksamania is located in Fitzrovia, not too far from the British Museum and we were indeed there to get fueled up for an afternoon at the museum. It is a much larger and fancier space than either C&R or Rasa Sayang. It may not seem so much larger at first but there is a lower level that is larger and shinier than the ground level, which is where we were seated (along with the few other people there for lunch). I assume rent in Fitzrovia is not low—either the backers have deep pockets or business has picked up markedly since their soft launch. The food at any rate was quite good.

As we were just the four of us, and not headed back to our AirBnB for a few hours, we did not over-order as is our usual wont. What did we get?

  • Chicken satay for the boys was four sticks of perfectly grilled chicken with an excellent peanut sauce and fruit and (pickled) veg.
  • The Char Kuey Teow was not the best I’ve ever eaten but it was far better than the version at Peninsula in Minneapolis.
  • The Nyonya Chicken Curry and their Roti Paratha were both excellent and miles ahead of the versions at Peninsula (which are not bad at all).
  • The Singapore Laksa was likewise very good

For pictures of the restaurant and the food launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for thoughts on service, value and quality relative to the other Malyasian places we’ve eaten at in London.

With the 20% soft launch discount—which for some reason showed up on the bill as a “VIP discount”—this came to just under £50. This is probably a bit more than a comparable order at C&R and Rasa Sayang would cost and to be frank I probably liked the food at both those restaurants a bit better too. I wouldn’t say, however, that I liked C&R and Rasa Sayang so much more that I would go out of my way to eat at either of those places over Laksamania. I’d be perfectly happy to eat here again and try more of their menu when in the neighbourhood on our next trip to London. And it should be said that the ambience and service here are much better than at the Chinatown restaurants. There you will feel quite a bit more cramped, service is indifferent and in general you’re unlikely to want to linger. Laksamania was much warmer. Of course, they were also not very busy—I have no idea what they might be like when full.

My next report from London will be not of a restaurant but of an evening spent in the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Member’s Room near Farringdon in the company of and officer of the O.W.I. (though I did also eat some food there). Look for that next week along with another Bombay report—and, of course, some booze reviews.

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