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.
Ladudu, 152 West End Lane, West Hampstead NW6 1SD
Rafa contentment score: 8/10 (soft seating ideal for rolling)