Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
I seemed to be in London with work a fair bit before Christmas and when I am up that way all too often I have been in a long meeting without having eaten anything all day.
I don’t really eat breakfast in the week (a strong coffee is about it), especially if it is an early start (all too often the case with meetings in London seemingly always starting at 10am). Whilst meetings at my office are often catered (those outside rarely) I seem to do most of the talking so tend to skip the food (no great shakes in any event).
As a result, I am often starving and looking for somewhere to eat before I get the train back home. The dilemma is do I go to eat and then get the tube to Paddington or get the tube and eat nearer the Station.
The risk with the former is the vagaries of the tube often mean I worry about missing my train (I am a bit of an anxious traveller – a “we need to get to the airport 3 hours before” sort of person) or feel I have to rush my food.
The latter option requires somewhere nice near the train station as the places actually in Paddington station are a bit uninspiring (and pricey – the tight git in me is never far from the surface).
As a result, I am always keen to find somewhere cheap within a short walk of the station.
As I tend to walk to and from Lancaster Gate tube (I find it is quicker to get into the City that way), I have noticed a hole in the wall basement restaurant specialising in Malaysian food.
I love Malay food (this love springs from a number of visits to Malaysia – beautiful place, with an amazing food culture) and from a quick check on the internet it looked promising. I, therefore, persuaded a colleague to give it a go before we boarded the train back to Cardiff.
Outside it is quite easy to miss. If you are on the otherside of the road (even with the signage) you will probably walk by without noticing it.
If you do descend into the basement (and you really should), the interior is pretty utilitarian although welcoming enough.
Pleasant, but pretty basic and as such not perhaps a place to linger (which entirely suits me when I have a train to catch).
It did bode well (to my mind) that, when we arrived, all the diners in the place looked to be of a South East Asian descent. This suggested to me a degree of authenticity in terms of the food on offer.
The menu (on the wall but also brought to the table in laminate form) had a good selection of classic Malay dishes on it,
With the likes of nasi lemak, curry mee and chicken rice, it all sounded very enticing.
Whilst we perused the menu, a bowl of (gratis) prawn crackers was brought to the table. Nice touch that.
Really good crunch and a pleasing flavour (with a touch of heat) to these, which meant they were demolished very quickly (mainly by me).
On to what we actually ordered, first up were some curry puffs (£2.50).
These, empanada style numbers, had a nice crisp exterior in the form of a good thin pastry encasing a spicy potato curry (lots of curry leaf in the mix). Really big flavours, but with a diminutive price tag. An excellent start.
Next up, a personal Malay favourite, was roti canai (£4.50). A breakfast dish in Malaysia, it is perfect lunch time fodder with its mix of bread and curry.
Here the two rotis had a good flakiness to them (possibly a bit to much of a good thing here) and a nice stretchy texture. Great for dipping in the chicken curry they came with.
The curry itself was rich with coconut milk, curry leaf, lemon grass and had a nice hit of chilli heat. It had a good depth of spicing to it and a very decent chunk of tender chicken hidden in its depths. Really enjoyable stuff and an absolute bargain for the diminutive price tag.
My colleague (who is more a veggie than a carnivore – I think they are called flexitarians, but in reality ain’t we all that) went for the yellow curry mee (£6.50).
Very substantial portion, with yellow noddles and a coconut based sauce. In amongst the veggies were strips of egg (in the form of a sort of airy omelette) which operated like little flavour sponges sucking up the full on curry sauce.
The only slight let downs were I was expecting it to me a bit more soupy in nature (curry mees I have had in Malaysia had more liquid – perhaps this is a derivation of those I have had) and the side salad. The latter was a bit boring, being undressed, and added very little to the equation – better to leave it off in my opinion.
All in all a very pleasing lunch, which filled the lunch time hole (without emptying the wallet) so much so that I didn’t need dinner that evening.
On the drinks front, they only do hot and cold soft drinks.
Decent selection of these, including my personal favourite teh tarik (a sweet tea made using condensed milk) for £2.50.
Here it was pleasantly sweet rather than teeth achingly so (over sweetness can be an issue with this drink – most Malaysians seem to have a really, really, sweet tooth) and the foamy top evidenced a proper pulling (pouring from a height between two vessels is said to enhance the flavours) of the tea.
They don’t sell booze, but I believe there is a BYO policy. Not sure what, if anything, the corkage charge is am afraid. I would probably take an Australian riesling or an young Spanish tempranillo or a chilean carmenere (nothing with too much oak in the mix on the red front I would say) if I was BYOing for this sort of food.
Great little hole in the wall joint, with good, nicely spiced, food. This is provided on the basis of generous portions at a very reasonable price (bargain anywhere, let alone London).
All in we paid £18.50 (sans a tip),
which for the quality and quantity of what we got was a total steal.
A stones throw from Paddington station, it is a great option if you are looking for a quick bite to eat (service was very prompt) before getting the train back West (they do takeaways too if you are really strapped for time).
Bargain basement stuff, in a good way, which is a-malay-zing for the money.
The closest you can get to a taste of this sort of grassroots Malay food in Cardiff is the very good (and cheap) Wo-ker Shaker on Tudor Road.
Address: The basement, 190 Sussex Gardens, London, W2 1TU.
Tel: 07502 064623
Website: Click here.
Opening hours: Mon- Sun: 12 noon to 12 pm.