Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea’

murtabak ayam (chicken-filled roti) at Awana Mayalsian restaurant

murtabak ayam (chicken-filled roti) at Awana Mayalsian restaurant

A month ago, Jon and I checked out the Malaysia festival near City Hall with our friends Andy and Maggie. Generally, I’m never excited about the food sold at outdoor festivals. Regardless of what culture or event the festival celebrates, food stalls usually end up selling a mass of undifferentiated spring rolls, fried rice and sausages. You’d think I would just stop going to these things, but hope springs eternal, and this time, I was on a quest for roti canai (aka oily flatbread deliciousness served with curry dipping sauce).

Cue Awana, which had a stall at the festival serving crispy-yet-chewy roti, hot off the pan and served with an insides-warming yellow dal. It was tasty enough that this weekend, Jon and I went with two friends to eat at the restaurant itself.

We briefly considered eating early because Awana has a deal on London Eating that takes 50% off your food bill if you’re done with your table by 8 pm. But (a) I’m never hungry before 8; (b) it was Saturday night; and (c) we had other things going on earlier that day, so we resisted the temptation.

It’s too bad we skipped the deal, because while the food at Awana is pretty good, it’s just too much money for Malaysian basics like beef rendang (a coconut-milk-based quasi curry) or nasi goreng (fried rice). Most Awana main courses are £15-20; starters £5-8; and basics like white rice come at £4.50 per small bowl.

My favorite parts of the meal were the least expensive and roti-based. The chicken-and-spice-stuffed roti (murtabak ayam) pictured at top was delish. If Malaysia ever had to face off against Mexico in a stuffed flatbread competition, the murtabak‘s sweet-salty-spicy goodness would surely triumph over the quesadilla. The pickled onions on the side added a cool, tangy crunch.

Roti canai with yellow dal

Roti canai with yellow dal

Roti canai was no disappointment at £5.50 a portion, though the tiny bowl of dal was sad. Are yellow split peas just so expensive?

Beef rendang at Awana

Beef rendang at Awana

Beef rendang was the main courses I most looked forward to, but it wasn’t worth the £14. A little too sweet and liquidy. The coconut milk is supposed to cook out, but in Awana’s version, the beef, while tender and spicy, was still swimming in the stuff.

Fried pomfret was beautifully crispy and non-greasy, but it needed a sauce or salt; veggie chao kuew teow was inoffensive and forgettable. Red snapper curry was the best of the mains, with nice, big chunks of firm white fishiness and a spicy-sweet curry sauce.

The service was generally helpful, and the room was huge and sleek in a wannabe-hip way. We got seated in a corner that seemed reserved for tourists carrying London guidebooks, and the rest of the room was comprised of hen and stag dos. I saw more than one round of flaming shots go round. A weird vibe for a restaurant aiming for a high-end rep.

Our total for four appetizers, four mains, a forgettable dessert, and £65 of drinks came to £50 per person. I’d go back if I could get half-price food, but otherwise, I’ll keep looking elsewhere for Malaysian food.

Awana, 85 Sloane Avenue, SW3 3DX, 0207 584 8880; closest tube stations: South Kensington or Sloane Square

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Cheyne Walk Brasserie, Chelsea, London

A few weeks ago, we went to Cheyne Walk Brasserie for the first time with Cathy and Bobby for drinks. I had my doubts about going there because a lot of restaurants in Chelsea have struck me as either inexpensive and mediocre or expensive and mediocre. But for drinks, I’d give the place a try.Cheyne Walk Brasserie interior

Well, we walked in and were struck by a warm and lively atmosphere. The simple (sort of spare), high-ceilinged Grill at Cheyne Walk Brasserie, Chelsea, Londonroom is lit up by a fiery, smoky grill that’s the room’s centrepiece. The grill announced: “we’re more than just a pretty brasserie – we actually cook here!”

The Tiffany-blue banquettes and generous spacing of tables rounded out the place’s inviting look.

We went upstairs to the “salon” for drinks, all of which were tasty, and even though we’d already eaten dinner that night, somehow we managed to devour a plate of cheese. The view of the Albert Bridge (see photo below left) spanning the Thames was gorgeous, the velvet-covered chaise lounges were comfy, and of course the company was perfect. So Jon and I decided we’d go back to try the food.Albert Bridge, London

Last night, that’s what we did. At around 10 pm, the dining room was still packed, and there was high traffic from large groups coming in and heading straight up to the salon (odd, because the Friday we went up there, the salon was empty except for us).

The menu offerings were all classic brasserie, and what we ate ranged from “well-cooked but nothing special” to “so tasty I could eat this all night.” In the former category fell Jon’s grilled sea bream, and my rack of lamb. Both were grilled to keep their juiciness and with a nice, smoky flavor that whisked you off to summer by the Mediterranean.

Our appetizers (a spicy, rich fish soup and a fresh-from-the-oven, comforting aubergine-goat cheese tart), the butter and bread, and a side of potatoes dauphinoises fell in the latter. I hate when potatoes dauphinoises is liquidy and the potato layers smush together, but here, it was crispy on top, creamy/buttery/garlicky, and the layers were intact. I love when comfort food gets attention from the cook.

We were stuffed after our main courses, but we’ll pace ourselves for dessert next time.The service during dinner (and also the time we went for drinks) was elegantly friendly and efficient.

Starters were £8-10, Mains averaged around £20. The menu is kind of Craft-style, meaning nothing comes with a side. You order that separately. Plus, there’s a £3 per person cover charge, which annoys me. Still, we’ll go back.
Cheyne Walk Brasserie on Urbanspoon

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