Naamyaa Cafe is an “all day dining, modern Bangkok cafe” situated on St. John Street in Islington. It is owned by Alan Yau who brought us Yauatcha, Hakkasan, and Princi and like it’s siblings Naamyaa is a rather pretty place to eat. It’s huge and has a warehouse feel to it with a really high ceiling. Low hanging fans spinning round made us forget for a second that it was snowing outside – I actually felt like I was on holiday!
We decided to start by sharing two small plates. Changmama’s pan-fried turnip cake (£6.50) was totally divine. Covered by stir fried bean sprouts it didn’t exactly have the most beautiful appearance but in terms of flavour it was a knockout.
The chicken satay (£5.50) was rather stingy on the satay sauce front. For me, the whole point of chicken satay is lashings of peanut sauce, however this one had a tiny smear. The chicken was a little tough too which wouldn’t have been a problem if it had been drenched in satay sauce.
We were surprised to see a burger section on the menu. Our waitress informed us that this was similar to restaurants you’d find in Bangkok which have traditional dishes for the locals and burgers for the tourists. So in true tourist fashion my gentleman companion opted for one of these. The bacon burger (£9) had a thick beef patty (served only medium or well done) which was very juicy. The bacon patty which sat atop was heavenly – really crispy and full of bacony flavour. It didn’t compete with the likes of Patty&Bun or Meat Mission but it was still very enjoyable. The fries were good but lacked seasoning.
I opted for something a little more exotic – stir fried free range corn fed chicken and asparagus (£8.90). A fried egg sat on top and the gooey yolk provided some sauce but other than that the dish was totally dry and flavourless. I relied on the chilli and soy sauce provided to give it an oomph so it actually tasted of something. I was rather disappointed. The portion size was generous and I certainly felt full but I didn’t feel inspired to finish it.
Our visit to Naamyaa Cafe was a little hit and miss. We loved the space and thought the staff were really friendly but the food was the weak link. I was expecting big bold flavours, instead it was all a bit bland. Saying that, if I’m in the area and in need of a quick, cheap bite to eat I’d certainly give it another go. Alan Yau has created super chains such as Wagamama and Busaba Eathai (he sold both for lots of money) – maybe Naamyaa Cafe is next in line to the throne – either way I’m not 100% convinced.