Restauranteur and chef Saiphin Moore has already enjoyed tremendous success with her famous Rosa's Thai Cafe throughout London (there are 10 so far), but with Lao Café, she has delivered her most intimate and personal creation yet. The food is from her ancestor's hometown of Luang Prabang in Laos and as we discovered during our visit, they've focused fiercely on giving an authentic Laotian experience.
The dining space is all about a sharing experience and inclusivity: there are warm filament light bulbs along with relaxed dining furniture. There are quirky, individual touches in the restaurant, including special tiles that cover the open kitchen area which is from Saiphin's favourite hotel in Laos and a giant wall mural of a smiling Laotian lady which covers almost the entirety of one of their main walls.
The family recipes they use include many punchy, fresh ingredients; I found this to be one of the spiciest restaurants in London as they do tend to use fresh chillies, especially in their papaya salads. They do offer customisable levels of spiciness, so don't be shy and do ask them to tone it down if you don't want Angelina Jolie-styled lips at the end of your meal.
It might be a rare thing to recommend, but the first dish to order here is their sticky rice. The people from Laos consume more sticky rice than any other country in the world. The taste here is smooth and soothing and the ideal antidote to calm any burning sensations from chilli overload. It also sates hunger for longer periods, as it takes longer to digest than typical white rice.
Their char-grilled pork neck goes particularly well with the sticky rice. It has a gentle, charred flavour but also sweetness from the marinade. It comes with a spicy, dipping sauce and just how you would imagine it being served as a street food in Laos. Laotians actually prefer to eat their sticky rice with grilled dishes rather than soupy dishes or curries.
They do have a few curry options here and I would highly recommend their mixed mushroom soup for all fungi lovers. Unlike their neighbouring countries, Laotian curry doesn't use coconut milk as it is a land-locked country, but instead, the dish is packed with punchy herbs and spices which gives the dish a unique flavour. Also, they use high-end wild mushrooms rather than your standard button variety.
They have authentic Laotian beverages as well including popular varieties of iced tea, coffee and beerlao, which is a premium Asian beer using Laos polished rice and fresh water.
For more information on Lao Cafe, See here.
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