Thursday, 14 January 2010

Shopping Pit-stop @ Cammasan (Pan-Asian), Kingston

{Update Apr 13 - Cammasan has been replaced by Oriental Kitchen. The concept and the menu remains very similar, though i.e. Pan-Asian}

Christmas shopping is torture. Unfortunately, you have to do it and that's why I spent one Saturday wandering aimlessly around the Bentalls Centre and John Lewis in Kingston-upon-Thames. I wasn't making much progress on my shopping so I decided to have a pit-stop for a late lunch.

Like most British high streets, chain eateries dominate in Kingston so it's heartening to see indie places like Cammasan in the town centre. This noodle bar and restaurant is located in the Charter Quay development with a full service Chinese restaurant on the first floor and a more modest noodle bar on the ground floor.

I plumped for the ground floor noodle bar and was handed a couple of menus, one was in English listing a selection of pan-Asian greatest hits from China, Thailand and Malaysia – stuff like sweet & sour pork, tom yum soup and laksa. The other was a bilingual menu with Cantonese one-dish meals and side dishes that wouldn't look out of place in a Hong Kong café.

It was from this second menu that I ordered Cantonese braised beef lao mein (£4.50) and a side of pak choi with garlic (£3.50). The classic dish of braised beef brisket (ngau laam) served on top of boiled noodles was simply luscious. The brisket was coated in rich star anise infused gravy and it simply melted in the mouth. I could've eaten this all day and it was a shame there wasn't more gravy for the noodles to soak up. The pak choi was perfectly stir-fried - a great accompaniment to the noodles.

However, there was one thing that let this dish down and it was the noodles. This dish should be served with fresh noodles (san mein) like the ones you get in proper wonton noodles. Instead Cammasan use 'dried san mein' - I know this is a bit of an oxymoron but these dried fine noodles (example pictured below) are similar in texture to san mein when refreshed.

I don't want to be a total arse about this as I like it here but it's a bit of a shame that such excellent beef brisket was accompanied by slightly inferior noodles. For all that there's nothing actually wrong with the noodles they serve and I understand why they use them. Without being patronising to Cammasan, they probably don't sell enough san mein dishes and it makes more sense to use dried noodles rather than waste unsold fresh noodles.

Together with green tea and service, the damage came to £10 – not bad value at all. Service was efficient although the communal benches aren't very comfy when it gets busy.

Verdict: If you find yourself in this part of deepest darkest Zone 6 then I'd recommend Cammasan. Based on the quality of the beef brisket and the pak choi, the kitchen certainly knows how to knock out classic Cantonese staples.

Other Stuff: In summer, there's an outdoor seating area which is a better option than the arse-numbing communal benches.

Cammasan on Urbanspoon


  1. If anyone is going to be picky about the noodles served it should be this blog so I am glad you raised it!

  2. Oh god. I now have a terrible craving for ngau lam. Preferably with some tendon in there too. Shame about the noodles.

  3. Not bad for £10 though, I am going to cook san mien next week as promised :) Fresh ones of course!

  4. That brisket looks sensational and the issue with the noodles would have completely bypassed me, ignorance is indeed bliss sometimes... I will look out for ngau lam on chinese menus now, thanks.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  5. GC/Lizzie - overall I'd still order this dish as the beef was excellent.

    3HT - I look forward to your san mein recipes

    Luiz - ignorance is bliss ! The beef more than makes up for the noodles.

  6. cammasan has a great reputation locally with oriental clients from families to students from local kingston univeristy and college. all their dishes are freshley prepared and cooked, just like hong kong. is actually better then some restaurants up in soho, london. we have been using this place since it opened 6 years ago.

    a must try restaurant and is the best chinese restaurant in kingston and beyond.... try it and review it yourself. google cammasan and you will find this restaurant has been in the Time Oot guide for the past 5 years. is good and authenic... yummy

  7. I love eating noodles. This blog has make me hungry. I'm longing now for noodles.