Test Driving Sambal Shiok - a laksa bar and much more on Holloway Road

crackersFenugreek crackers with tomato salsa

So what do we need to know about Sambal Shiok?

For the past two years, Mandy Yin's roaming laksa bar has been gathering a fanbase. Jay Rayner wrote a glowing review when it popped up on Green Lanes and Giles Coren was in the door here barely a week or two after it had opened. Malaysian-born Chinese of Peranakan Nyonya heritage, Mandy describes her cooking thus: "I take inspiration from everything I ate in my childhood growing up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Then I mix it up and put a new slant on it."

This is her now permanent laksa bar, serving up Malaysian Nyonya curry laksa.

Where is it?

At the lower end of Holloway Road. It's pretty much equidistant from Highbury and Islington and Holloway Road tubes, or you could always get the overground to Drayton Park.

rollsFried chicken and peanut sauce

Where's good to meet for a drink first?

Almost next door is one of our favourite spots around here, Provisions. It's essentially a wine and cheese store you can drink in. If you're after something more obviously bar or pub-like, then there's The Lamb just down the road and a little further on you'll find the House of Hamerton tap room.

And where should we sit?

Wherever you can get a seat, frankly. This place is pretty darned popular. But if you do get a choice, there's some counter dining seating as well as normal table seating too.

picklesAchar pickles

So, is the menu all laksa?

Far from it, although it is the main focus. But before you get to that, you're going to want to roam through the snacks. And if there's more than two of you, you should probably order all four of them - our favourites were the fenugreek crackers with tomato salsa (£4.50) and the Malaysian fried chicken with peanut sauce (£8).

The main event is split into a choice of laksa or rice plates. On the laksa front there are five options ranging in price from £9 to £13.50 - standard, chicken, prawn, special and vegan. You can choose between rice or egg noodles or - as we did - have a mixture of both.

In addition, you can amp up your dish with a range of add-ons like charred aubergine, half a soft-boiled egg, extra fried tofu and sauteed potatoes.

The laksas are punchy, chilli-wise, but with an intense and deep flavour base. Two of us are utter lightweights and had to have some extra coconut milk to add in as needed which our Bruneian friend thought was laughably weedy of us. Slightly less fiery are the rice platters - beef rendang (£13.50) was delicious and there's an option of an Assan fish curry (£12.50) with whatever the Wild Harbour dayboats from Cornwall have brought in. There are no desserts.

The wine list is supposed to be pretty interesting...

Yes, it's been curated by Zeren Wilson who's come up with a Riesling-heavy list sourced from The Winery. Bottles range in price from £21 up to £45 and our Walter Trocken (£30) was just super. Alternatively, there are a couple of beers from Tottenham's Pressure Drops brewery as well as some interesting soft drinks like rose milk or lime and mint soda.

laksaThe chicken laksa with egg and aubergine

What are the vegetarian options like?

Pretty good. They do a vegan broth base so you can have either the standard laksa with that or the vegan special which also includes the charred aubergine and sauteed potatoes. The achar pickles and fenugreek crackers are both veggie and there's also a tarka dahl curry too.

Other need-to-know things

They only take reservations for groups of four or more, but the good news is that half the place is kept for walk-ins. Just give them your number, nip off and have a drink in one of the places we mentioned above and they'll call when the table is ready.

Overall thoughts:

Yes, we went for dinner on the day Giles Coren's review came out, so it probably made it a little busier than it may have been, but there's no doubt this new Holloway Road spot is super popular and it's justly deserved. It's always great to see someone who's slogged it out on the street food and residency slopes cut a break and get a permanent place. And it certainly doesn't need us to tell you that it's going to do incredibly well here.

rendangBeef rendang with rice


More about Sambal Shiok

Where is it? 171 Holloway Rd, London N7 8LX

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @sambalshiok


Subscribe to be the first to get the news from Hot Dinners