I have played the hypothetical ‘what would you eat as your last meal on death row‘ game on a few different occasions now, and one reoccurring theme for me is that my dish is nearly always Malaysian – and I am not Malay.
Sydney was blessed with a huge influx of Malaysian restaurants over the last 5 years, so much so that an ordinary city office worker see themselves as an expert on the most authentic laksa on the block. We love our Malay food so much, business men are not at all embarrassed about wearing a paper bib to avoid laksa splashes (or risk stains on their white shirts), or return to the office with ginger/garlic breath after a plate of chicken rice.
When I first moved to London, one of the very first things I missed was access to good Malaysian food and my first priorities (after job and house hunting of course) was to source good food. Whilst I succeeded somewhat (C&R for a delicious Singapore Laksa; Sedap for killer Chow Kway Teow or Awana when you are feeling like a splurge) there are few instances where I have had to resort to Prima Taste ready-to-cook packs to meet my craving.
But a recent marketing drive by Malaysia Kitchen (with able ambassator Rick Stein in tow) brought the Taste of Malaysia to Taste London in June this year in an attempt to really elevate the cuisine in the minds of Londoners. One London restaurant that is almost synonymous with Malaysian food in London is Satay House in Paddington. Ask a London-Malay their opinion of Satay House and they will surely tell you of the restaurants 30 year history, and that the casual diner boasts the Royal Family of Brunei as regulars.
Our visit was very much unplanned. After an impromptu day visiting Oxford, we found ourselves on the train back to Paddington with rumbling stomachs and no dinner plans. Brilliantly we somehow remembered Satay House and quickly made a reservation. It was a busy Thursday night and you could tell the staff were desperately trying to turn their tables for the crowd of 8:30pm bookings waiting outside. We luckily only waited 15 minutes, but whilst waiting were given menus to look at to ease the pain.
The menu is rather large and is written in Malay with english description. This slowed down my navigation a bit as I found it hard to stay focused whilst making dinner table conversation but after careful examination, found all my favourite classics. Wine list was reasonable and we chose a quaffable Rioja for around £15.
For a restaurant that is called Satay House, it’s interesting that they don’t necessarily specialise in Satay. Reminiscing a family holiday in Penang where my brother and I competed in a Satay hawker all you can eat challenge, we nostalgically ordered a starter of the Satay Ayam (Chicken £6.10). I was pleased to see the satay arrive with the traditional cucumber, onion and rice cube condiments and the peanut sauce was wonderfully nutty, through lacking a touch of heat. The chicken itself had a slight char from the grill and was clearly well marinaded. Maybe it’s the Chinese in me speaking here, but I wished that they used dark (thigh) rather than white (breast) meat, as dark meat is most moist and would hold more of the flavour from the marinade.
After a little wait, our mains arrived to the table. We ordered a Sambal Ikan Siakap (£18.60), a wonderful whole fried sea bass smothered in spicy sambal chillies. The sea bass was well fried and the sambal sauce covering hit all the right notes. Sweet, Chilli, Zesty.
Sam got a bit carried away and scoffed his fish down only to get hit by chilli wave. Luckily Roti Canai (£4) soon arrived at our table and he immediately found heat relief with the crisp, textured, buttery flatbread. The sauce that accompanied the Roti Canai I can’t say much for – it was a rather weak bland curry and we opted to mop up our other dishes with the bread instead.
Our final main, Rendang Daging (£8.10) or Beef Rendang ended up being the best dish of the evening. The spices were clearly evident with a beautiful lemongrass undertone throughout the sauce. The texture of the beef soft without being mushy and spicy without being hot. I felt more than a little disappointed on portion sizing. I admit that often we are gluttons and greedily want just another bite of a dish, but in this case I really felt that the portion of the beef was a bit too small, so small that I could count 7 small cubes of beef.
We finished up the beef rendang with a perfect bowl of chicken fragrant rice (£4 per small bowl).
Overall Satay House produces lovely authentic Malaysian food and is the perfect way to satisfy a craving. Service is not really worth the 12.5% they wack on your bill, but the family who run the front of house try their hardest to bring your food with a friendly smile. Aside from my minor whinge on portion size, our dinner for 2 came to £60 with a bottle of wine and service – an average London night out.
13 Sale Place
Westminster, London W2 1PX