Simon Ogilvie-Harris reviews the iconic Nam Long Le Shaker restaurant after its recent makeover
Nam Long Le Shaker opened in 1987 and fast became a haunt that most remembered arriving at but not one that they remembered leaving. Its lethal signature cocktail, the Flaming Ferrari, has probably singlehandedly been responsible for more hangovers than anything else in Kensington and Chelsea but now, in the wake of the sad demise of its flamboyant founder, Thai Dang Cao, this institution has been given a new lease of life by his son and daughter.
A den of hedonistic excess during the 1990s and 2000s and popular with everyone from Lord Archer’s son to Prince William during that time, Nam Long has been described by BarChick as a place where “strange things go down” but on my first visit I was actually pleasantly surprised by the Vietnamese menu on offer.
Decorated in a French colonial Indochine fashion and split over two levels, Nam Long is small and dimly lit. It oozes eccentricity and is most definitely more about fun than fine dining. Any order of a Flaming Ferrari is accompanied by a roaring sound track that drowns out the cheers of one’s companions as one downs this potent concoction of 100% proof rum, Chartreuse, Grand Marnier and Blue Curaçao and whilst I sensibly avoided sampling one, my dining companion quaffed what he described as “perfectly made” gins and tonics and “perfectly drinkable” wines from the restaurant’s somewhat limited wine list.
We began our meal with Nam Long’s Imperial spring rolls and salmon ceviche. Whilst the spring rolls and ceviche were not exceptional, the portions were generous and with starters ranging from £4 to £8, the prices are reasonable given the restaurant’s position on the borders of Chelsea and South Kensington.
Next came siu yuk buns that featured pork belly with pickled red cabbage and coriander in a steamed bun. These were a highlight and we followed with main courses of beef fillet with garlic and black pepper and a steamed fillet of sea bass with ginger and a dark soya sauce.
Served in a light sauce, the beef was tender and pleasant but the sea bass was truly the better of the two choices. Well balanced and delicious, this is a dish I’ll certainly return to sample again and I would also point out that with prices ranging for mains from £9 to £13, the offering is great value. Steamed rice is priced at £2.50 and egg noodles are available for £5.
Options for our final course, as is the case at many Asian restaurants, are quite limited at Nam Long Le Shaker but our waitress recommended the banana fritters with ice cream. Whilst not exactly culinary genius, I truly enjoyed indulging myself and really enjoyed them. Meanwhile, my companion finished off with yet another gin and tonic.
My final observation is simple: If you indulge in a Flaming Ferrari during your visit to Nam Long Le Shaker, make sure you don’t have a breakfast meeting the next morning.
Nam Long Le Shaker, 159 Old Brompton Road, London, SW5 0LJ. Telephone: +420 222 325 325.
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