London - Singapore Garden at Swiss Cottage
Back at Singapore Garden after a 2-decade hiatus - mainly curious to find out how a place can still pack the crowds in after all these years. Anyway, its space seemed to have expanded (doubled?) and looked to have been recently refurbished.
- Kueh pie-tee: I really liked the version here - whilst certainly not the best-tasting one I'd had, I appreciated the simplicity of the rendition here. The cook stuck to the basics: shredded turnips, shrimps, shaoolts, served in very crispy pastry cups.
- Sambal prawns: fresh de-shelled prawns, not authentic as the chili conrent has been drastically toned down to suit Londoners' tastes.
- Beef rendang: also toned down to the point of being bland, Missing were the fresh turmeric leaves and also lime leaves scent. Maybe those ingredients are more difficult to come by here. It's a decent version which can satisfy a visiting Singaporean's taste - we tend to be pragmatic and lower our expectations when coming across "Singaporean" food in London every now & then. Still, good quality beef used here, even if it was cooked a bit too dry.
- Tauhu goreng: cubes of tofu, beansprouts, cucumber wedges in a thick groundnut-sweet soysauce-prawn paste sauce. This dish was my favourite fo rhte evening. It was also 100% authentic, and the cook's got the balance of flavours down to a 't'.
- Singapore chicken curry: Toned down and very bland. But the version here managed to project a Singapore-Chinese-Nyonya identity with the addition of lemongrass, and a gentler blend of spices which differentiated it from Indian curries (with their more pronounced cardamom, fenugreek accents)
- Lemongrass chicken: I didn't order this but a Londoner friend did. This dish - sitr-fried chicken with peppers & scented with lemongrass - of course, does not exist in Singapore, or any other South-East Asian country, for that matter. But I'm sure it's familiar to locals here from local "Chinese" take-outs or pseudo-Asian joints like the Banana Tree chain. I guess it's a matter of giving your customers what they want, and restaurateurs here certainly will do that to survive.
- Oyster omelette: the only other 100% authentic-tasting rendition of a Singapore dish in this restaurant. But it's served relatively warm, instead of sizzling hot. Still, very decent & quite tasty. But I wonder: why does "Oh Chien" end up being called "Ho Chien" on the menu here at Singapore Garden, and *also* on the menu of Bugis Street @ Millennium Gloucester Hotel (the other well-known Singaporean spot in town)
- Chicken satay: chicken meat was non-fatty and not caramelised during the barbecue process - obviously another case of 'suit-the-local-taste' cooking. But peanut sauce was perfect.
- Fried bananas with vanilla ice-cream (ok)
- Sago Gula Melaka (the only 'real' Singaporean dessert on the menu)
- Coconut ice-cream (avoid!)
83 Fairfax Road
London NW6 4DY
Tel: 020 7328 5314
Yes, amongst the dishes we ordered yesterday evening. I didn't take photos of 2 other dishes ordered by my Londoner friends - "sang choy bow" (minced pork/water-chestnuts in lettuce cups) & "pan-fried minced pork dumplings", as I thought those were also totally Chinese dishes, also customised to suit local tastes.
Thanks, zuriga1 - wished we could have more Chowmeets. Apologies for the numerous typo errors in my original post - it was my last update, even as my limo driver's waiting downstairs to fetch me to the airport! And hope you come to Singapore sometime, so I can show you some "real" Singapore chow.