Ekachai (Southeast Asian) – Hawley Wharf, CamdenHALAL STATUS Halal chicken (no cross-contamination) • Alcohol served
Although we visited Ekachai in 2018 only a month after it had opened in King’s Cross, and while we did rate it an above average 3.5/5, there was certainly enough there to show potential.
Having concluded our first review satisfied that their food was “as fresh as you’d like… with some dishes offering strong, punchy flavours and others rotating around the delicate and subtle”, we return three year’s later wondering how they’ll fair this time round.
Delivering “honest and authentic flavours from Southeast Asia”, the brand itself is well-established, with a number of sites scattered across London.
This latest one opened very recently in the huge complex of Hawley Wharf (it also boasts a number of other Halal brands across its two floors) in the very heart of Camden, north London.
Conveniently accessible via Water Lane Entrance (West), which is adjacent to the iconic Camden Lock Railway Bridge on the junction of Chalk Farm Road, Camden High Street and Castlehaven Road, the commercial kitchen is a large and spacious one, with plenty of seating available.
Not only had the strips of squid retained just that right level of chewiness of perfectly adjudged cephalopods, but the delicately light and non-greasy batter proved beautifully crisp and airy.
While making sure to cover these beauties in plenty of that fresh zesty lime juice, we couldn’t get enough of these when had with the sprinkling of the crushed sichuan peppercorn, the fried garlic, the diced chilli, and that sweet chilli sauce.
In short, plenty of flavour profiles going on here, but ones that came together to make these an addictive eat.
Although these Aya Goreng chicken wings were small, they were again expertly cooked, being served moist and succulent on the inside, and crispy-cum-crunchy on the out, but without being overly greasy.
With the turmeric and galangal combining to provide both the attractive deep red colour, as well as the herbaceous flavour, these went really well with the smoky peanut dip.
WOK FRIED RICE & NOODLESRECOMMENDED
This classic Thai dish of Kai Krapow, though designated ‘2-chillis’ hot on the menu, was quite bearable, with essentially three elements, all of which came together in harmony to deliver a delicious plate.
At the heart of it all, of course, was that delightfully tender grounded chicken, powered by a well-seasoned chilli-based sauce, and plenty of fine beans to offer some textural contrast.
Coupled with a dome of fragrant jasmine rice, which wasn’t just sticky but also boasted an almost fried texture on the outside, it was the yolky richness of the fried egg which brought the entire thing together.RECOMMENDED
Not only had the ‘breath’ of the wok managed to impart in them a smoky aroma, but the chilli flakes added a touch of much needed heat, the crispy dry fish flakes some umami goodness, and the bean sprouts a little crunch with every bite.
What’s more, the prawns were glazed in the same rich sauce that enveloped the rest of the dish. Simply superb!
We only found out towards the end that there was a little residual sauce, courtesy perhaps of the sambal prawns therein, at the bottom, which, had there been far more of, would have made this Nasi Lemak better than it was.
And though it was a perfectly respectable bowl, what with the relatively freshly-cooked sticky rice, the aforementioned crispy Ayam Goreng wings, fried onions, copious amount of peanuts, as well as tender prawns, the entire thing never really came together into a coherent whole. This was desperately calling out for either more sambal sauce or the option of ordering some.
And though the curry itself was mildly flavoured, being more buttery than anything else, this again was absolutely screaming out for some fiery sambal sauce which, surprisingly, hasn’t been made available by Ekachai, and something they’d do well to offer as an option.
In any case, with all its constituent parts, ranging from the prawns to the strips of chicken, all superly executed, the entire thing did become somewhat uniform in taste by the end.
- NO/ NO
- DISABLED FACILITIES
While circumstances couldn't be more similar, with both being reviewed barely a month after having opened, the two locations are very different, with the former a commercial kitchen located in a multi-complex, and the latter a traditional restaurant.
And though the setup for the latter you might think would be more conducive for maintaining higher standards so as to produce better food, in this case, our experience of Ekachai as a commercial kitchen easily trumped its restaurant counterpart.
Not only did the food come out ultra-fresh, but was far more bold and daring in its flavours in comparison to the more timid dishes we had the first time round. A thoroughly enjoyable experience, and one we'd recommend you go try if you're in the area.
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Unit M200, Foodhall Floor 2, Hawley Wharf, 3 Water Ln., London NW1 8JZ.
Opening Hours: Mon-Thur 12:00-18:00 | Fri-Sat 12:00-20:00 | Sun 11:30-22:00