It’s A Caff Jim, But Not As We Know It – Laksa Bar @ Chi Kitchen

26 Mar 2017

Big knickers and pop socks. That’s what Debenhams is for, right? Nipping in for a furtive spritz of One Direction ‘Between Us’ at the perfume counter before a gin and slim at All Bar One with the girls? Little did I know.

Laksa Bar, Chi Kitchen

I wandered in off Oxford Street with my eye on a nice, sensible chino and a short-sleeved polyester shirt. I ducked to avoid getting a spurt of One Direction, and before I knew it, I found myself, doused in Kim Kardashian ‘Kim Kardashian’, scurrying Father Ted and Dougal Style between double Ds in the lingerie section. Don’t ask. Anyway, long story short, I needed a sit-down while my palms stopped sweating so I asked the way to the caff, looking forward to a brew and a fruit scone.

There’s the Chi Kitchen, the nice lady with a neck scarf and a nylon skirt said. Can I get a scone there? Probably not. That’s a shame. But it has a new Laksa bar. What’s Laksa? No idea love. I declined a squirt of Cheryl’s ‘Storm Flower’ and went off around the back of Elizabeth Arden looking for a little entrance I eventually found on the third attempt.

So what’s this new bar at the Chi Kitchen? The restaurant’s been offering its pan-Asian food to what it calls the discerning customers of Debenhams for a year now. Turns out this month sees the opening of its new Laksa bar. It’s like the counter at a sushi joint, with high stools and nice wodges of raw fish behind a glass screen, but its selling point is the three types of Laksa on the menu. That’s a spicy noodle soup from Malaysia if, like me, you didn’t know.

And it’s all perfectly good. To start, two types of steamed prawn dumplings and popcorn shrimp (actually a bit TGI Fridays), decent uramaki and lots of house white. Then the namesake dishes. A traditional Malay Laksa. Bit spicy, tofu, prawn, fish balls, thin vermicelli noodles. Loads of colourful favour. A Katong Laksa, Singaporean more than Malay, kind of the same but thicker of noodle and softer in flavour. Both pretty much on the money for thirteen or fourteen quid. Coconut ice cream, maybe six points. Passionfruit cheesecake, nul points. Sorry Laksa Bar. Go lighter on the gelatine next time. A smiley waiter called Gabriel kept my glass well topped up so I told him he was an archangel. He probably thought about calling the police.

So, that’s what you get what you go looking for the Debenhams caff these days. No scone, no brew, and I reeked of celebrity narcissism. But I have to say: my belly was satisfied, I’d drunk a lot of white wine, and I had my lucky pants on, so I forgot about the chinos and polyester shirt, treated myself to another shuffle between the double D cups, and tottered off for a gin and slim hoping All Bar One would let me and the girls back in after the last time.

Matthew

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