Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Lanka review - Primrose Hill Japanese cakes and tea

Address: 71 Regents Park Road,
London NW1 8UY
Tel: 020 7431 7056
Nearest Tube station: Chalk Farm

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £10 pp
Service charge: NA
Taste: ***
Service: *****
Ambience: **
Suitable for: an afternoon tea for two
"Have you been to Lanka?" P came up to me the other day. Upon seeing my puzzled look, she added, "It's a nice little Japanese-French cafe just off Primrose Hill." Without skipping a beat, she gushed,"Their green tea tart is literally one of the best things I've ever tasted..." She went describing the place but I was already making plans to pop by over the weekend.

I've got a soft spot for Primrose Hill. Those who enjoy open green spaces and love just lying on a patch would know what I mean. Hyde Park's getting crowded these days. Kensington Gardens isn't exactly conducive for a lie down with the defined paths crisscrossing the entire area. Regents Park is a bit segmented to my liking. Above all, you can't find a decent slope in all these parks. You need the right gradient - too steep and you could jolly well end up at the bottom of the knoll, too gentle and you'll end up squinting into nothingness the entire time. But Primrose Hill ticks all the right boxes.


However, for some reason, I've always approached the Hill from Camden Town and while it was a relatively pleasant walk along the canal, it can get tiresome at times. This time round, I emerged from the London Underground at Chalk Farm (I was really tempted to lunch at Yum Cha but looking at my ever-expanding waistline, I thought I should really watch my diet nowadays) and headed towards Regent's Park Road for some cakes instead. How unlike of me to give up dim sum for cakes.

We nearly walked past Lanka. Compared to the other shops, cafes and eateries along the street, Lanka was rather discreet. It was a bit bigger than I expected. From P's description, I was looking out for a hole in the wall. Though Lanka was much bigger than that, it was definitely not the full size sit down cafeteria. I couldn't help but noticed that the kitchen and the preparatory area occupies a sizable portion of the entire shop area. Other than three tiny tables that seat two each, there was a counter for perhaps six just opposite the preparatory area.


The Japanese staff were polite to a fault. I have come to realised that service comes as a natural to almost all the Japanese eateries and restaurants that I have been to. And like most Japanese eating places, they don't impose a service charge on the bill. Besides service, the Japanese tend to take pride in their presentation as well. "Take a look at the colours, and enjoy it a bit before stirring it and mixing it all up," a staff recommended with a hesitating smile as he served my black tea and grapefruit soda (£3.30).


The green tea tart (£3.50) was presented with a small scoop of dense vanilla ice cream on the side. I must say that the consistency was rather interesting. Not overpowering with green tea essence and rather subtle, it reminded me of a very nicely done mooncake paste albeit in green tea flavour. What gave it the edge was a fine thin layer of macha embedded in tart's crusty bottom. Well, I could see why P was besotted by this neat creation. However, I thought that the white chocolate shavings on the top easily overpowered the light green tea taste.


The green tea chocolate gâteau (£3.50) was more green tea than chocolate. While I like its light taste and slightly crusty exterior, I couldn't help but think of the pandan cake that I grew up eating while picking at the much dearer slice in front of me.


Wife was feeling a bit peckish still after going through both cakes. Couldn't blame her really. So we got a green tea macaroon (£1), which was served in a tiny square plate. The macaroon was a bit dense, definitely not as light as the Pierre Herme that are now sold at Selfridges. That said, there was no hint of essence in them, which was a huge bonus.

It was a pity that most customers coming in requested for chicken and roast beef sandwiches on display. I had a quick word with one of the staff and he mentioned that green tea chocolate gâteau was more popular with Orientals, the locals tend to go for the pear and almond tarts. It all boiled down to taste I supposed. If that is so, Chef Masayuki Hara probably got the balance right.

Though Lanka definitely adds colour to the row of shops along Regent Park Road, it's not a place where you would make a special trip down for. At least that's the case for me. But I suspect it would thrive on the business brought in by the surrounding residential area alone.

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1 comment:

The London Foodie said...

Love, love, love matcha, but i still prefer dim sum, and Yum Cha is one of my favourite haunts. I can't wait to try Lanka now, those matcha cakes look like the dogs bollocks!