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Satay House, London [Restaurant Review]

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

As you may have noticed (or not), I’m originally from Malaysia but have been in the UK for the past decade. Most Malaysians (except for the anorexics and bulimics) are diehard foodies who are quite happy to travel a fair distance to satisfy a craving or to try to some new dish that’s making the rounds in the endless rumour network of good food. Studying in a boarding school in England was a truly jarring experience; the cooks tried their best for the large contingent of Malaysian students there, but it wasn’t the same, especially for people like me who are fans of the street-side hawker stalls where you sit in an alley on a stool with a dirty greasy table and pray you don’t get diarrhoea later but are still willing to gamble your intestines because it was that good.

Luckily, there were some Malaysian restaurants opening up in the past couple of years;
C&R’s nasi lemak was pretty awesome, until we heard there was a food poisoning incident there and we never went back again, while Nyonya’s Penang style char koay teow is the best you will find in the whole of London (and probably the UK) and is better than 90% of koay teows in Malaysia. There were some old stalwarts like Nahar, Mawar (closed down because of rat infestation last I heard), Melati and good old Malaysian Hall, but quite frankly they just didn’t cut the mustard for me.

And then I was introduced to Satay House. I’m not sure how I wasn’t aware of this restaurant till a couple years ago since it’s been around since 1973, but refurbished in 2006. Located in the backstreets of Paddington (described by a very senior colleague as “the cesspit of London), a stone’s throw from St Mary’s Hospital (where Princes William and Harry was born). Inside though, you’re all nice and safe with its warm lighting and the red walls are more comforting than antagonizing. Little touches like woodcut hibiscus (the national flower) decorates one side of the wall. The ground floor has about a half dozen tables and downstairs has a fair amount more but booking ahead is still recommended as it routinely gets filled up.

Satay house, london

Satay house, london

Satay house, london menu

Our party of five quickly ordered some drinks. From the left, the pink coloured drink is
air bandung cincau – the bandung is essentially rose syrup mixed with milk, and cincau is a type of black grass jelly. The black drink is air cincau – the black jelly with sugar syrup. The tea like looking drink is chilled teh tarik – teh tarik translates into “pulled tea” and is a method of pouring the tea from one jug to another to cool it down (Youtube “teh tarik”, it makes more sense). This is a very popular breakfast drink in Malaysia and normally has a generous amount of condensed milk to sweeten it; I found Satay House’s version a bit light on the sugar but the girls in the table found it just nice. Lastly the white drink on the right is soya bean drink.

Satay house, london drinks

Although called Satay House, it doesn’t actually specialise in satays, having only lamb or chicken meat to choose from. For those who aren’t aware,
satay is essentially marinated meat skewered onto bamboo sticks and grilled over an open flame. The meat is usually served with peanut sauce, raw cucumber and onion and ketupat, rice pressed and cut into squares. For me, the best satay is from Kajang, Malaysia, but this one here doesn’t do a bad job as it’s well seasoned and marinated, tender, and most importantly the peanut sauce is tasty too.

The tauhu sumbat (=stuffed tofu) was probably the least popular dish ordered today, partly because there were more tempting treats on offer. At any rate, it was to satisfy a craving for a party member. Essentially, it was a big tofu stuffed with raw bean sprouts and cucumber, served with a spicy peanut sauce.

Satay house, london tauhu sumbat

Everytime we eat here, we will order the
nasi goreng kampong (= village style fried rice). A simple dish, but done just right and with generous dried anchovies sprinkled on top.

Satay house, london nasi goreng kampong

Another favourite is the
koay teow goreng (= fried flat rice noodles) done in the Malay style (all the dishes here are in the Malay style). Although I prefer Penang style char koay teow, Satay House still does a very tasty dish here, with just the right amount of oil so the noodles don’t stick together but not too much that you’re left reaching for a drink to wash your mouth.

Satay house, london koay teow goreng

We also ordered two sides of plain white rice. A minor complaint but basmati rice was used, my Chinese heritage prefers jasmine.

Ayam masak merah (= red cooked chicken) has chicken chunks deep fried first, then tossed in with a sauce made from tomatoes and chillies. Don’t be alarmed though as it’s not a spicy dish at all. The sauce is so good that we finished it all up to eat with the white rice, even though there were noticeable amounts of oil used.

Satay house, london Ayam masak merah

The Suckling Pig (one of our eating companions and part-time hand model on this blog)just absolutely adores the
ayam goreng bawang putih (=garlic fried chicken) here so we doubled the portions to satisfy him. A simple dish to execute, chicken wings deep fried with generous amounts of sliced garlic and chilli. Simple pleasures.

Satay house, london ayam goreng bawang putih

Unfortunately, the
sotong berempah (= spiced squid) was a bit too oily (even compared to the others) and the spices were more satisfactory than stunning.

Satay house, london sotong berempah

The obligatory vegetable dish is a favourite of the PigPig and is one of the few vegetables she enjoys,
pajeri terong (= aubergine pajeri). Pajeri is a type of very mild curry, on the sweet side and very rich with generous dollops of santan (= coconut cream).

Satay house, london pajeri terong

Dessert time beckons. The PigPig shared a
bubur pulut hitam (= black glutinous rice pudding) with a friend. The rice was cooked with lots of water to make a porridge and then served with santan (coconut milk), making a very rich starchy gooey yummy dessert guaranteed to block up vital coronaries in the future.

Satay house, london bubur pulut hitam

Meanwhile, the other four of us each ordered an
ais kacang (= peanut ice). The Suckling Pig and I have been waiting for months to get our hands on this again, we had often wanted to come to Satay House just to eat this for dessert after a dinner but we never actually did it for one reason for another. At the bottom of the huge mug are attap chee (= palm seeds, not everybody’s favourite), cincau, cream of corn, and red beans, all covered with a huge pile of shaved ice with generous a drizzling of rose syrup and condensed milk. This is a very popular dish in tropical Malaysia as the ice is so refreshing to eat/drink.

Satay house, london ais kacang

The bill for all that came up to £100 or £20 each.

Food - 6.5
Service - 6.0
Atmosphere - 6.0
Value - 5.0

The service is just about as good as you can hope to get from a down to earth Malaysian restaurant. In terms of value, this is pricier than most other Malaysian restaurants except the overpriced and not very good Awana, but the quality of food is still better here. However, a standard Chinese dinner would set me back about £15 so this is still a bit on the pricy side.

The food in general doesn’t use amazing ingredients or fancy cooking methods and the presentation is a case of “what you see is what you get”. The chef probably learnt his trade from helping his mother or grandmother in the kitchen, and that’s the beauty of this place. It doesn’t have any pretensions in the food; it just does a good job of serving you good Malay style food, just like how your mother (or someone else’s mother anyway) would do it, in a nice clean tidy environment for you to enjoy it in. If you see my logic here, that’s why the food may only score 7.0, but the enjoyment is 9.5, because simple food on traditional recipes done properly made me a happy Boar.

Satay House
13 Sale Place
W2 1PX
Tel: +44(0)20 7723 6763
Official website

Satay House on Urbanspoon

34 oink oinks...:

FoOd PaRaDiSe said...

The foods look exactly like the foods serves here.... looks yummy. ^-^

Jenn said...

That looks really good. I could go for some satay right about now. Adding this to the place to eat when I visit London.

Sara said...

Looks great to me! It's funny that they call it Satay House but then don't specialize in satay :)

burpandslurp said...

wow...this brings back such nostalgia...I miss those foods already! I have some malaysian restaurants around my area, but it's SO not authentic at all...

email2me said...

Wow! Malaysian satay had travel so far and getting famous in UK.

When you crave for home town food, you will not care the price. You just want to bite it at that moment. :D

mycookinghut said...

I have not been to the Satay House but heard about it! Guess this will be the next restaurant to visit! Thanks for sharing this piece of info!

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

I love your photos! Will add to the list. Have you been to Sedap or Rasa Sayang yet? I think Nyonya has closed by the way...

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A nice place! MMmhhh, I love satay!



sugarlens said...

*drool* Everything looks delicious! Your food photography makes it even so!

Wild Boar said...

FoOd PaRaDiSe:
Yeah its pretty authentic, quite a rare feature of international cuisines sometimes.

If you need to scratch your itch for Malaysian food, this is definitely a suitable candidate.

I know! They might have had a good reason for it, but I'm not exactly best buddies with the owner so I never found out why/how/what/where/when.

Its quite irritating to eat "Malaysian/Singaporean" food that's clearly been modified to suit local tastebuds sometimes.

Hope you were hearing mainly good things about Satay House. I certainly think its worth a visit.

Helen Yuet Ling Pang:
Nope not been to either, heard of Rasa Sayang though. Its a new place right? Is it worth trying? Oh yeah I just found out last night that Nyonya closed :-( Their website says its closed for renovation, but my aunt said that chef had a falling out or something.

Helen said...

I know next to nothing about Malaysian food but I really want to rectify this if there are some decent places in London. I will add this one to my list.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Damn, I shouldn't have read this so close to bedtime! The food looks great, especially the red cooked chicken and the drinks and desserts. I even like the flower detailing on the wall. And established 1973? That's quite a long time ago as far as restaurant years go!

Elra said...

Hmmmm, that look enak sekali. I also love sate/satay. Wow, I just made Nasi Goreng Kampung (Balinese style), but it was too spicy for my son. Sotong berempah, make me rindu sekali sama kampong halaman. Lucky that you have good Malay restaurant in London.

♥peachkins♥ said...

The food looks heavenly and the drinks are very interesting..

Jackie said...

Lovely restaurant review. I really like the decor and atmosphere: very hip and zen. I really like the black jello drink in pink liquid, it looks very interesting

the caked crusader said...

If something's that tasty it's worth blocking some arteries with.

Reeni♥ said...

You do the best reviews, Wild Boar! Everything looks wonderful, I would love to try some of these dishes that are entirely new to me. The fancy drinks look so good!

Donna-FFW said...

I love satay!! These dishes are mostly new to me, but theyall certainly look delicious.

Lori Lynn said...

Gee, I wish I was there, that would be my kinda place. Love the photos. Sorry to hear about the squid, as that would be my favorite...

Pam said...

I can't believe how well your photos turned out. It's hard to get good lighting in restaurants. Great review!

Pei-Lin said...

Man, you're so lucky to have easy access to the familiar! I've been living in a town without Asian grocers! And, the "Chinese food" here is too Americanized! I bet you wouldn't feel homesick living there, right?

Great blog!! I love it! Keep it up!


Robin Sue said...

Great review! I really enjoyed reading this piece and now I want some good satay myself. the drinks were so interesting too!

lisaiscooking said...

Everything looks great, and I'd especially like to try the red cooked chicken! This has me thinking satay--I haven't made it for a long time. Too long.

Wild Boar said...

Oh yeah if you're looking for an authentic experience of Malay style Malaysian food, then this is definitely a possibility in quite nice surroundings.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella:
I think its been around so long because of the regulars who just need to satisfy their cravings every now and then. Yeah the decor is quite nice too, enough to make a presence and to proclaim its a Malaysian place, but not over the top.

Oh yeah satay is quite popular in Bali as well right? I was in Bali for 3 nights and probably had satay for at least 5 meals haha. I'm sure your son will grow out of his "tak boleh makan pedas" stage soon, I couldn't eat spicy stuff when I was young too.

The cincau bandung is quite popular with some people, my friend keeps ordering it when she goes.

the caked crusader:
I'm currently doing a Cardiology rotation and the number of overweight fat men who have heart attacks is scaring me a little :-( Hasn't stopped me eating fatty stuff though lol

Thanks! Its always nice to try a new cuisine isn't it?

I'm not surprised since Malaysian cuisine isn't exactly widespread in the Western world (or most of the Eastern too actually). Hopefully after reading this you and other people have a little bit more understanding of our type of food :-)

Lori Lynn:
Well perhaps I was being a bit mean to the squid, it wasn't bad in any way (except the oiliness) but it was more mediocre than good.

Oh it was mainly because we were sitting by the window and it was still sunny outside. If it was winter time, it would've been a whole different story.

Haha did you have to "import" all your Chinese sauces and foodstuffs? Thanks for the compliments too!

Robin Sue:
Thanks! Ahh good satay is always a pleasure to eat, tasty tender well marinated meat accompanied with a good peanut sauce that doesn't skimp on the flavour..... I'm hungry now...

The red cooked chicken is a particular favourite dish of mine. My mom used to take away some from a local store in Malaysia and it was chock full with spices and chillies giving it a more powerful kick than other versions.

food-4tots said...

The food looks so homely and delicious! I am craving for it now......;)

Barbara Bakes said...

Looks like a fun night out! I was especially intrigued by the dessert.

5 Star Foodie said...

I have actually never been to a Malaysian restaurant, this looks really nice and I would love to try a few of those dishes.

Wild Boar said...

Barbara Bakes:
Yeah its quite different from western stuff where its usually cakes and pastries.

5 Star Foodie:
Again, you're not alone having never been to a Malaysian restaurant haha. Hope you'll try a nearby one soon.

Lizzie said...

This all looks delicious. I have limited knowledge about Malaysian food, but it looks right up my street.

Anonymous said...

hey there! by any chance when u said "Studying in a boarding school in England was a truly jarring experience; the cooks tried their best for the large contingent of Malaysian students there..", would u happen to mean concord? :)

Wild Boar said...

Yes! I suppose it is quite obvious to other Concord students when I described it like that eh?

Anonymous said...

lol. i'm afraid so. anw, was googling for options on what i could do with lapcheongs for dinner just now when i discovered pigpigscorner. browsed around - i was drawn by the drool worthy pictures - and was delighted and amused to read that line which got me guessing. glad i stumbled upon ur blog. u have a new avid reader!

Big Eater said...

Dear Pig Pig and Wild Boar, I absolutely love this blog! I keep coming back for more and more =)
However, I realized you don't write much reviews on Thai food? I heard of this really good Thai place at Goodge Street called Siam Central. Would be great to see your take on that!


pigpigscorner said...

Thanks for dropping by :-)

Umm, I think I just don't really fancy Thai that much? I don't know why so don't read too much into it. Anyway I've been to Siam Central before quite a few times last year and I find their dishes very tasty but just a little too salty.

Hope you get a chance to see this reply.

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