I like to try and stay up to date with new local restaurants but I doubt I’d have ever come across Angkor Soul if it was not for Jay Rayner’s review in the Observer a few weeks back – even though it’s only on the other side of town. It is, apparently, one of only two Cambodian restaurants in the UK and the only one in the north. There’s a short menu of what the website describes as “traditional and modern Cambodian cuisine”. That’s good – means we don’t have to get into that tedious discussion about “authentic” food. I’m not Cambodian and have never been to Cambodia so I wouldn’t have any clue as to whether something was “authentic”. Nor would I care. I care about whether the food tastes good and whether I’ll have a nice evening. Well, it does and I did.
They also say that, whilst there’s distinct cuisine, there’s influences from the neighbouring cultures of Vietnam and Thailand. And there was probably nothing more representative of that than one of the starters – pleah. Thin slices of rare beef with leaves, red onions, herbs that remind you of Vietnamese salads and citrus and chilli that remind you of a Thai som tum salad and there’s a hefty sprinkling of crushed peanuts for a bit of texture change. It’s good. For the other starter, florets of cauliflower (presumably not a traditional Khmer vegetable) had been lightly battered, fried and given a coating of chilli and honey sauce. It was a bit like those chunks of sweet and sour chicken you get from the Chinese takeaway (in a nice way).
For mains, saraman was a mild beef curry, long cooked with potatoes and carrot, from the north of the country. Curry it might be, but it’s the spices of east, not south, asia that come through – aniseed from star anise and citrus from lemongrass. There’s jasmine rice as a carb. Cha kuthiew is, according to the menu, a street food dish. It’s a pleasant enough mix of noodles, bean sprouts, onion and your choice of protein (in this case, chicken). There’s nothing overly assertive with the flavourings here and, perhaps, it could have done with something more to balance what was a background sweetness. More of the tamarind paste that’s mentioned in the menu description would work.
This was all served up by two front of house young women who were friendly and perfectly efficient. A pleasant enough evening. If I lived nearer to Marple, I’d probably be a regular but, as it stands, the Vietnamese “Mi & Pho’ in Northenden is much nearer and offers sufficiently similar food that I probably won’t be a regular here.