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Ladudu, Part 2: The Lunch

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Rafa and I had enjoyed a few coffee outings to Ladudu, West Hampstead’s most recent addition to the local food scene, and I was keen to progress to lunch. Our first attempt ended in disappointment when we arrived at the door on a Tuesday lunchtime, only to find they are closed on Tuesdays. A return trip the next day was worth the effort. This place puts West End Lane’s other Asian eateries into the shadows, delivering fresh, authentic and tasty food at noodle bar prices.

I was there with Gastrogranny, who is not a big eater, so we chose just one appetiser and two main dishes between us. The green papaya salad/Roi Du Du (£5.50) was perfectly crunchy, enhanced by the addition of chopped roasted almonds in place of the more typical peanuts. The sharpness of the lime was well balanced with a hint of fish sauce, leaving a refreshing tingly taste. I’m already planning further visits to work my way through the remaining appetisers, beginning with Vietnamese pancake (£5.50). We boringly drank tap water, which was iced and available in abundance.

We were keen to try the Spicy Beef Noodles/Bun Bo Hue (£7.50) but at 1pm it was still being cooked and was therefore disappointingly not available. Instead we had the now ubiquitous Pho, which proved a worthy substitute. The mellow flavour of the star anise came through beautifully, present but not overpoweringly so. I would have liked noodles with a little more bite, but the stock was spot on.

The day’s lunch special was Crispy Skin Chicken/Co’m Ga Da Gion (£7.00), which lived up to its name with sumptuously juicy, crispy skin, full of flavour. The mound of rice accompanying the chicken was a bit dry and only warm not hot, so defeated us in the end, but the pickled vegetables were a welcome complement.

The comfy leather seating with plenty of cushioning provided a perfect little playden for a full of beans seven month old, but by the end of two courses, Rafa’s patience was wearing thin, and we beat a hasty retreat with no time for pudding. I have however already earmarked the Pandan pancake with coconut filling/Banh Trang Ngot (£3.50) for next time.

As an Asian food loving NW6-er, I arrived at Ladudu eager not to be disappointed, and disappointed I was not. This is a welcome addition to the West Hampstead restaurant line up and is set to become my local lunch of choice.

Details:

Ladudu, 152 West End Lane, West Hampstead NW6 1SD

Overall: 8/10

Rafa contentment score: 8/10 (soft seating ideal for rolling)

Ladudu Part 1: Coffee

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My excitement over the opening of a Vietnamese restaurant on West End Lane, just minutes from our house, has been bubbling away since the Ladudu sign first made its appearance. Vietnamese food easily makes it into my top three world cuisines, and NW6 suffers from a drought of quality, authentic Asian food. My heart went out to owner, Teresa Le (follow her on Twitter @ladudufood), when I spotted a sign in the window on the restaurant’s inaugural day, announcing that due to a delay in the gas installation, no mains could be served. A restaurant with no gas?! Hardly the all singing all dancing opening every restaurateur would hope for! This problem has not been speedily resolved, and it is only today that Ladudu is finally closed for the said gas installation to take place. Yet they seemed to have rumbled along, still attracting custom with offerings of Vietnamese coffee, cakes and deserts, and with the help of an electric ring, even rustled up a few select mains each lunchtime. I popped in yesterday to try out West End Lane’s newest coffee venue and will be returning post-gas installation for the full works.

On entering Ladudu, there is an immediate sense of space and calm. The decor is contemporary Eastern style, with an abundance of dark wood and walls adorned with photographs of Vietnam. The Vietnamese phrase books and pots of herbs on the table add a quirky touch, and leather bucket seats were perfect for wedging Rafa in. Whilst he happily rolled around and desperately vied for attention from other customers, I enjoyed a latte and a pain au chocolat. Not a classic Vietnamese snack I have to concede; I drew more on the traditions of Vietnam’s former colonisers this time. The coffee easily beats that of the big chains just across the road (did you know Vietnam is the second largest coffee exporter in the world?), and my pain au choc came freshly warmed with the delectable crispiness that comes from an oven not a microwave.

Service was chirpy and enthusiastic and demonstrated knowledge of the way to win the loyalty of any new mum: comment on what a gorgeous baby they have 😉

I will miss the food trials next week as I gorge myself in the Loire Valley, but my mouth is already watering at the prospect of savouring fresh Vietnamese food on my return.