Lao Café, Covent Garden, London
Hailed as the first restaurant in London offering Laotian cuisine, Lao Café proved to be a surprise hit for my friend Arielle and I. We stumbled through Covent Garden seeking gastronomic respite and found it here. Less than one year old, Lao Café first started as a pop up from the co-founder of Rosa’s Thai, and there’s plenty of similarities between that chain and this one. Cosiness, efficient service and at the heart of everything: great quality food.
So good, it shouldn’t be a-Lao-ed
The Laotian cuisine and experience at Lao Cafe makes for a wholesome, sharing experience. And one of the hallmarks of a Laotian dinner is sticky rice. There’s more consumed in Laos than any other part of the world. Without a booking in tow, we had been walking around Covent Garden mindlessly in search for a great, special meal. There’s a wealth of choices when it comes to homogenous chains. But something resembling a home cooked meal would always be our preference. Heck, even Wahaca was too full. So it was with great pleasure to genuinely stumble upon Lao Cafe.
We started off our time with Lao Cafe with the pleasant milk teas. When it came to the food order, we were quite puzzled. This might have been me first Laotian meal but it certainly won’t be the last. It’s absolutely a sharing type of place. The staff’s recommendation was two main dishes, and two side dishes. The menu at Lao Cafe features tumm (papaya salad), soop (spicy salad), laab (dry salad), hee (grilled), curries, hotpots and stir-fries. Everything is awesome and new.
We ordered the jee kor moo (chargrilled pork neck) £10, the minced durk laab (£9.50) and the mixed mushroom soup (£11). There’s an option for ant eggs atop the soup, but we went without. Oh yeah, and one of the sticky rice in banana leaf orders. We were really impressed with everything. There is a rustic quality to these dishes and it all tastes homemade.
New flavours, new wonders
Lots of new exciting flavours to enjoy. The curry was more of a soup in the end, that and the laab both have a spicy kick to it. I was a little unsure on the pork neck, but this is a super tasty cut without ever feeling too fatty. The sticky rice is good but £3 for the small serve feels a bit on the steep side. We loved our first taster of the Laotian way of eating and Lao cafe is a good gateway to all of that.