Although the Bubble Tea craze has been around for a while, it’s a trend I had happily ignored until my recent visit to Lakwatsa, a new bubble tea and Merienda lounge. Despite my healthy scepticism about the bubbles (let me tell you now, they aren’t bubbles, but ‘chewy jelly ball’ doesn’t quite have the same ring), any doubts about how great the taste could be are blown away.
Sandwiched between Huey Morgan’s tattoo parlour and The Nothing Hill bookshop on Blenheim Crescent, you could say that owner Claire Buyson has chosen the perfect place for her first foodie venture. Having grown up in the local area, Claire’s dream of opening a relaxing place to hang out and share a drink or snack has finally been realised. Her love affair with Bubble Tea started a few years back in California but its concept comes from 1980s Taiwan.
The Cafe has a well thought-out design suitably relaxing and low-key. Wooden box swing chairs and bright colours, a scrabble menu board and a drink production counter that looks more cocktail bar than teashop, all add to the beach bar vibe. The bubble tea comes in jam jars and in a variety of flavours either milk or juice-based. Tapioca balls (the bubbles: made from cassava root) are included as a matter of course and extra jelly flavours can be added to your choice. I tried a honeydew melon milk-based drink with tapioca – a strangely successful combination. The fruit-based teas were more refreshing and additional aloe vera jellies add a healthy kick. The Taro-flavoured milk tea was particularly creamy and luxurious, and the Asian vegetable passed on its unusual purple tint to the drink.
Whilst the tea options are fun, the food element to Lakwatsa’s bow is something independently successful. With the help of her mother’s traditional Filipino recipes, Claire has created an Asian tapas (merienda) style menu. Spicy and fresh, dishes include Baby Squid with Ceviche sauce, Adobo Rice balls as well as their own take on Prawn Toast and Gyoza.
Bubble Tea may not be about to take over the humble brew as number one beverage in this country, but it is a fun alternative all the same. The café also offers teas and Vietnamese coffees for any of those who can’t go without. Open until 11pm it’s amongst the few places in London that’s an alcohol- free venue – so check out this friendly, foodie option if you are in the neighbourhood. (Words: Laura Thornley)
For more info, visit: www.lakwatsa.co.uk