Sunday, May 14, 2006

Secret Malaysian Hide-outs

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.


Susan said...

Wow.. this is the reason people read blogs. Thanks for this article David - I've put it on my website just cos my sis and bro-in-law live in London and I know I'd want to hear of this if I did too hehe..

Love ur site, it just gets better and better! Cheers, Susan

Sam said...

You better take me to these places when I get there.. *waggles finger*

rachel said...

Thank you so much for reminding me of these places. My father used to take me and my mother to the place in Bayswater. As they had both lived in KL and I was brought up there, it was wonderful tasting a little slice of Malaysia in West London!

David said...

I'm offering all an open invite to dinner/lunch/breakfast at the abovementioned places.

In fact, I'll be Malaysia Hall at 8am tomorrow for a breakfast with a friend roti canai or nasi lemak - dare I try sambal so early in the morning...?

Welcome Rachel - I feel so grubby next to your blog

nash said...

hey david, i've invited nahar when i went there for christmas last year!

the food was GREAT!!!! it's like im tasting my mom's cooking :P

nash said...


what i meant is I WENT TO NAHAR. [how in the hell did i spelt is as invited? beats me ;) ]

David said...

Hi Nash,

I've never been disappointed at Nahar or Malaysia Hall. The flavours jump in my mouth.

Andrew said...

I went to Malaysia Hall on your recommendation, and it is fantastic. It's a bit of a haul for me to go for breakfast, so I had breakfast in the evening, roti canai and nasi lemak with redang beef. It was sensational.

Nahar next.

Andrew said...

... and I am off to Nahar tonight. I am having my shoulders sugared round the corner, and will pop in to Nahar afterwards. There's a lovely image for you.

Su-Lin said...

You must get yourself to Oriental City in Colindale (what's that? like north west London? whatever, it's in the AtoZ). Anyway, they have a food court with lots of South/South-East Asian food of which is a roti stall with the guy flipping (stretching? throwing?) homemade roti canai in front of you get in Malaysia! Excellent stuff!

Anonymous said...

there's also mawar at edgeware road and another msian restaurant at croydon and satay house somewhere between nahar and mawar is just as great too but a bit pricey.

Anonymous said...

I've been living in london for the past 6yrs and I just found out about this Nahar place after stumbling upon yr blog!! Any other authentic malaysian eateries to recommend???????