Hidden in the basement of a corner townhouse in Paddington is a little piece of Malaysia. I mean that in every sense of the word. Bonda Café is a Malaysian restaurant popular with the local residents as well as London-based Malaysians – and their friends and family who tag along (me!). The café also looks very much like a typical joint from Malaysia complete with formica-top tables, wonky chairs, bain-marie filled with goodies from curries to banana fritters. The baju kurung clad customers are mostly chatting in Malay while sipping teh tarik and eating mee goreng mamak. You’ll never guess you’re in the heart of London, really.
Hubby and I have frequented Bonda Café quite a number of times now. We went back again over the weekend, in search of a quick home-style Malaysian meal. Once again, we made the mistake of ordering while we’re starving…so we ended up with way too much food! Thought I’d share some food porn here anyway.
Usually a frothing glass of teh tarik would be ordered, but it was a warm-ish evening, so we had the iced version. Regular sweet, strong milk tea with ice.
We had placed our order, but in the five minutes while waiting, my greed hunger came into play and I trotted to the bain-marie to seek out a pre-dinner snack. Found Pulut Panggang and gleefully ordered two. Fragrant slightly sweet sticky rice roll, filled with shredded spiced beef, wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled. Certainly kept me happy while I waited.
One of my must-haves at Bonda Café – Soup Kambing (Malaysian style mutton soup) The aroma of spices like cloves and cardamom are prevalent in this normally rich, thick soup with tender chunks of mutton. Mutton is not something I have regularly, but cooked in this soup, it’s divine. However, I was disappointed this time round as the soup was watery and didn’t have the usual power spice kick. Boo.
Another favourite of ours – Rendang Daging: Beef cooked till its meltingly tender in a rich coconut based gravy, richly flavoured with lemon grass, ginger and shallots. Spicy and delicious.
Ayam Masak Lemak, literally translated as ‘chicken cooked with coconut’. Its turmeric-tinged gravy is creamy and lighter than the rendang. Also milder in flavour but some of the green bits in there disguised as harmless beans were actually very spicy strips of hot green chilli. Yup, I got caught out…but it was still burningly good.
Stir-fried beansprouts. Nothing fancy, just a bunch of sprouts, bits of tofu. We thought we had ordered beansprouts with salted fish, but there was no evidence of fish or salt – for that matter – it was rather bland, but it did fulfil our veggie quota and so that’s okay.
Sotong Goreng (Calamari fritters) Major letdown. Squidgy, slimy calamari encased in a rather unsavoury batter. Even the chilli sauce was straight out of the bottle. Meh. I had one, hubby ate the rest.
So you see, we did overdo it – as people would say our eyes were bigger than our tummies. We had a few hits and a couple of misses this round too, but I’m sure we’ll be back again especially for that wonderful rendang…or some mee goreng mamak.
190 Sussex Gardens
London W2 1TU