I think I've found the cheapest South-East Asian eats in central London. I've previously raved on about C&R Cafe but two recently discovered establishments leave it in the dust.
My mother always made a great deal out of chef pedigree - for how can a Chinese chef make real beef rendang if he (or she) didn't grow up living and breathing it, if it weren't part of the very fabric of their existence. As such, C&R being a Malaysian-Chinese run joint, although doing an admirable beef rendang, is not the best that it could be.
Leon unearthed two Malaysian eateries through his blog-trawling - two hidden gems accessible only to those in the know and completely hidden from public view. They're not advertised and there is no sign. You only know you're there because you're at the correct street number and there are tables and chairs to serve food.
Lest I give away my secrets and overwhelm the establishments with clientele (thus irrevocably changing what I seek to partake with minimal disturbance), I shall remain decidedly vague about their locations and you can email me for me to tell you about them. I expect great favours for my largesse - payments in kind also accepted.
Nahar Cafeteria is in Paddington and I suspect the canteen of the Mara hostel in London. MARA is a kind of technical training institute in Malaysia and why they have a hostel in London is beyond me, but I'm grateful for the extremely authentic Mamak-style food this place makes. This place is very basic with melamine tables and plastic chairs, but who cares - the fish curry is divine and the mee mamak aroma dark with Indian spices. Nasi Campur with 3 choices at £4.50 is the best deal. The menu is extensive and they're open till 11pm. I felt out-of-place speaking in English as Bahasa Malaysia flowed around me; I nearly did, but used English as I could barely string together, "Satu, ini [point, point], terima kasih."
The second establishment, Malaysia House, is in Bayswater and most definitely the canteen for the Malaysia House hostel in the same building. Although a more basic menu compared to Nahar: Nasi Campur (£4.50) and a few variants of mee/nasi goreng/bandung/sup - their ace in the hole is home-made roti canai (£1.50 with gravy). I could not believe it. But 'tis true. It's official that London has better Malaysian food than Sydney.
Very few non-Malaysians know or visit these establishments - a good sign that they cater specifically for the Malaysian palette rather than anything else.
Leon revealed that he prefers the oilier and greasier machine-made roti, simply because that's what he's used to - poor deprived thing. Never mind, I'm going to be eating both our shares of Malaysia House roti. They also do breakfast from 8 to 10am (Nasi Lemak and roti canai).
London has finally lived up to its reputation for being one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities.