Restaurateur Mandy Yin who owns the hugely popular Sambal Shiok laksa bar and Nasi Economy Rice restaurants on Holloway Road in north London has announced that she will reopen Nasi as a Malayasian deli, serving takeaway ready meals, from next Wednesday.
With just one other member of staff, Yin said on Instagram that there will be no hot food available at the outset but that they will be offering set ready meals served chilled, with sauces, marinades and curry powders “whilst we get used to our new business parameters.” She added that the menu of set meals will change every one or two weeks to give repeat customers something new to try.
Yin, who has called for a “national time out” and other state interventions to support restaurants in the long term, is among a growing number of operators who have realised that with some lockdown restrictions lifted, part re-opening in the short-term has become more feasible. What’s more, the July reopening date given by the government remains critically uncertain. Boris Johnson’s recent intervention notwithstanding, with “crowded venues” still potentially having to remain closed into the latter part of the summer, restaurant owners and their workforces still do not know when they will be able to reopen for dine-in customers.
For Yin, operating Nasi as a deli is less of a brand pivot than some other restaurant owners have undertaken. In January, she told Eater that opening Nasi was both a response to customer demand for a takeaway option at her phenomenally successful laksa restaurant Sambal Shiok, but also a result of her frustration at the limited way in which Londoners enjoyed portable lunchtime meals. “I’ve been here over 20 years, and I don’t understand why there are so few delis for Asian food. In Malaysia you’ll find these stalls everywhere, it’s anathema to have a sandwich for lunch — it’s a hot, cooked meal,” she said then.
And yet this is not how Nasi, open only for two days before being forced to close, was supposed to be. But it’s something for Yin to work from. “It is my aim to increase our capacity to include hot food as soon as I can get more of my staff safely back into work,” she said.
It will operate as a same day collection and delivery service only, with all orders pre-paid online. No walk-in transactions are permitted and it will work with a courier service to enable same day delivery within an eight-mile radius, which covers Enfield, Wembley, Ilford, and Streatham, she announced. The website will be open for orders next week.
“I am also working to introduce a nationwide postal ordering service asap,” Yin added. “So don’t worry, it is coming. One step at a time!”