Monday, January 30, 2006


We went to Fame (the musical) as my quasi-mother-in-law's present. Before the performance, we ate at Sarastro, a theatre restaurant, near Aldwych theatre bedecked in over-the-top lamps, papier mache, gilt, gold and velvet - very faux-opulent indeed. The food was decent but we weren't that hungry so shared a few starters. These were well executed and tasty but nothing too adventurous in case Betty Blacktown (or should I say Chrissy Croyden?) should get overwhelmed by a flavoured foam.

Apparently most of the waitpeople are performers and during certain times will sing out operatic-style when announcing your order, "And here is the fruit pla-a-a-tt-e-e-er!" Incidentally, this is the highlight of the menu. It is so huge you could never eat all of it. We partook of the strawberries and blueberries, then I surreptitiously packed the apples and oranges in my bag. I stopped at taking the whole pineapple - that would have been uncouth, although I'm assured that it would have been allowed.

Cumberland Sausage

We had a pub lunch one Saturday afternoon. One thing about central London is that it is packed with visitors on the weekend. After trying two pubs with queues of 20 mins or more, we finally found one with a free table. The food is supplied by Nicholsons, who seem to supply numerous pubs in London. I ordered Cumberland Sausage served on a giant Yorkshire pudding.

Leon has already written about this post. My sausage lay nestled, coiled even, on top of a stale piece of "Yorkshire pudding", which was rapidly going soggy with the gravy. Small chunks of carrot, broccoli and leek, microwaved to perfection and then some more, lazily breast-stroked (with the assistence of my fork) in the brown gloopy gravy. But alas, this sausage was not prepared properly. In haste, it didn't have time to finish its toilette before serving and you can see that my sausage did a crispy poo.

Borough Market

If you can find it anywhere, you can find it at Borough Market. Well, unless you want an exotic Asian (Oriental) herb or spice. But for anything in Europe, you will find it here. From exotic game (see the beheaded but still furred carcasses of hare, rabbit and other hanging in the picture), exotic vegetables and even wax-fruits.


Wild game
It's a lovely place for a walk if you can stand the bustling crowds on the weekend. However, one particular acronym kept clanging in my mind as I walked with Leon throughout the market: HACCP HACCP HACCP HACCP. I was shocked at the level of basic food hygiene with regard to the displayed food. Loaves of bread, vats of olives and cheeses left open to the elements - the markets are below a major railway bridge - I suppose train dust imparts a delicate flavour that makes Borough food taste extra special. Raw meat was handled with bare hands which also changed money - Queen Liz and the collective phalangeal dirt of the British public must also contribute to taste. Of particular note is this vertical sausage rotisserie: here you can see how the raw sausages are loaded at the top so that as they cook, the melted fat slowly bastes the already cooked sausages at the bottom. Mmm mmm good, I love my sausages kissed with tepid raw pork fat.

Rotiserie sausages

Wax fruit
Nevertheless, Neal's Yard Dairy really impressed us. The shower inside continuously runs to maintain high humidity for cheese storage. We spent a lovely afternoon looking at the vegetables on display, warming ourselves on this frigid morning with Belgian hot chocolate and marvelling at the legs of Spanish ham ready-to-carve.

Raw quail

The food is not the cheapest in town, in fact one might say that it is gourmet prices. The major supermarkets, in particular Waitrose may well prove somewhat cheaper for many foodstuffs, but the variety at Borough Market is just immense. I don't know of anywhere else in London where you buy beheaded hare carcass.

C and R Cafe and Restaurant

By chance, when I was suffering from crowd overload in Picadilly circus, I walked a back route to avoid Shaftesbury Avenue. I stumbled across Rupert Court and the C&R Takeaway which sold a respectable range of Malaysian kuih. An iridescent green tetrahedron of leaves caught my eye and lo and behold, 'twas Nasi Lemak in banana leaves. I bought one for dinner and I thoroughly enjoyed this tasty treat for dinner that night. Unfortunately, my palate and gut have regained their sensitivity to chili-heat and I had a few uncomfortable moments the following morning. The sambal in this dish makes no compromises (and takes no prisoners). But it was so tasty I couldn't help but eat it all up.

Roti Chanai

When Leon and I came a subsequent night, we ordered kangkung stir-fried in sambal, roti chanai with chicken curry and salted-fish and chicken fried rice. I went into homesickness-relieved raptures when I tasted the kangkung. I love how this vegetable is crunchy yet resilient. The hollow stems and soft leaves give it a wonderful shape for absorbing the flavour of the sambal belachan. The fried rice was also divine. Just the right amount of salted fish to chicken. The roti was...machine mass produced - I know my roti; it features prominently in my father's business - we used to make it ourselves from a recipe handed down from a Malaysian Indian cook but now another Wellington cook makes it for us, and this was not hand made. But to be fair, roti chanai making technique is very difficult to master and intensely laborious. Not only do you have to get the dough correct, the subsequent kneading, stretching and resting processes are crucial to get the correct balance between flakiness and chewiness. Machine-made rotis tend to be oilier and flatter than hand made ones. I think they use modified mass-production puff pastry techniques as the folds and flaking look roughly similar.

C&R is a Chinese-Malaysian restaurant, so you can't really expect them to be expert at everything. My mother has inculcated in me a strong sense of restaurant racial pedigree: she will not eat Malay or Indian curries in Chinese-run Malaysian restaurants. Her reason: "Chinese do not know how to make proper curry" - which is a fair comment as the Chinese-Malaysian curry usually contains prawn paste (foreign to Malay and Indian curries) and a sophisticated understanding of curry spicing (innate to Indian cookery) is not part of the Chinese rubric. Of course this means that she usually won't eat at at *any* Chinese-run Malaysian restaurant because, she being a very accomplished cook herself, can recreate many of the Chinese-Malaysian recipes at home.

C&R attempt to have representative examples of all Malaysian dishes, so you will find Beef Rendang and Chilli Chicken on the menu. I'm sure these will be more than adequate, but as the two Eurasian Singaporean girls on our adjacent table exclaimed insultedly on our second visit, "This is not Chilli Chicken!" I've heard that Mawar on Edgware Road is Malay run, so I look forward to visiting and sampling their Beef Rendang. Satay House in Paddington is reputedly patronised by the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Average price: £7 to 9.
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