Dinner for 4 (no alcohol served): £60
I have a friend Jenelle who, like me, is utterly and completely obsessed with Malaysian food and she and I have developed a bad (good) habit of going out and ordering an absolutely stupid amount of food together. She mentioned that she had walked passed a Malaysian restaurant near Paddington but couldn’t remember the name or exact location. After a 30 minute wander around the neighborhood and just before we were about to give up and go to some horrible chain we did actually manage to find Bonda Cafe.
Its not an obvious choice for the passerby. It has a sign outside which hints that there might be a restaurant in the basement of the building, but when you look down into the windows the harsh florescent lights make it look rather uninviting. The interior itself also lacks any charm. Luckily this is usually a good sign in a Malaysian restaurant. For some strange reason a Malaysian place with really nice decor often indicates dummed down, westernized food.
We invited Jenelle’s boyfriend and another friend along so that we could pretend to justify ordering enough food for 16 people and started out with what they called popiah but which were really just blah fried spring rolls – not even worth showing the photograph – just imagine the last spring rolls you had anywhere and that will suffice.
Next we ordered satay ayam. The chicken satay was served with nasi imput (rice cubes) which the boys thought were weird but Jenelle and I loved. Very good satay indeed.
In addition to the satay we ordered a roti canai which was interesting for me as the dipping sauce was dalcha – which is lentil based and tastes much more of its Indian roots then the Singaporean version I am used to which is a coconut milk based curry. It was yummy.
So after the 3 starters we ordered 4 mains and 2 sides. I had the kari ikan which was brave of me because though I like a good fishy fish I really really do not like mackerel. And unfortunately even though the kari ikan did its best to help me learn to love the fish – it simply did not work. If mackerel is your thing though I bet you would just love it.
We also had kari ayam – a homey, comforting chicken curry and beef rendang – a slow cooked curry beef. But my absolute favorite of the evening was the sambal ikan billis.
Its made from tiny crispy chewy fried anchovies swimming in a spicy sambal sauce. If this sounds gross to you – then Malaysian food might not be your thing. The dish is the essence of my one of my favorite Malaysian flavors – a mix of hot, sour and fishy. Even though this dish belonged to someone else I am pretty sure I ate most of it right out from under him.
Because we are insane we also had a side order of okra which was nice and a fairly bland telur dadar – omelette with chilis.
I know you’re thinking what pigs how could they possibly have split 8 dishes? But I haven’t gotten to desert yet.
Bonda does several steamed milk puddings which change daily. Both the pandan and cheesecake were very nice.
As we were enjoying our puddings and were slowly slipping into unconsciousness a girls choir from Denmark came in with their choir master for dinner. We’re talking 30 teenage girls from a singing group who were visiting London. How this group ended up in this tiny out of the way restaurant is beyond me and in my food coma I completely forgot to ask why the choir master chose this particular place for a big group dinner or for them to sing us a song.
Bonda is a great place to go for truly authentic Malaysian food. Jenelle and I are planning a trip back on a weekend which is the only time they serve their Laksa.
190 Sussex Garden
London, W2 1TU