True to my word, I came back here to try out the À la Carte. Believe me that I so wanted this place to succeed but I’m sorry to say it doesn’t cut the mustard. Since my request for volunteers to join me for a re-visit were few and far between, I dragged along my girlfriend (ever so temporary) of the evening, Marina.
The starter of Chicken Satay. (We opted for chicken instead of the medley that included beef and lamb, my companion wasn’t too keen on red meat).
Two good things about this dish; the meat was beautifully tender and the use of both brown and white meat was spot-on. Otherwise the meat tasted unexciting, the paste the meat was marinated with lacked too little of the following- turmeric powder (kunyit), lemon grass, honey (for the glaze) and sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis). The accompanying Peanut Sauce was too peanut buttery, as it needed more tamarind pulp, sugar and coriander powder. Am I being too fussy? Not really considering six skewers cost £6.50. The three or so cubes of ketupat (Malay rice cake) were undercooked.
The Ayam Berlada Merah- fried chicken with red chillies.
Very red and suitably spicy. Correctly served with chicken on the bone (and not just dirt cheap chicken wings, a rip-off practice often found in a couple of Indonesian restaurants in Soho!) Sad to say this was the only palatable dish for me.
Tauhu Telur- Fried beancurd (tofu) omelette. Marina actually enjoyed this dish. I found it slapdash and amateurish.
The whole dish was over swamped with sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis) and raw tomatoes. A not so fine ‘mess’ of a dish.
Kari Sotong- Squid curry with aubergine. Woeful, three and half pieces of overcooked fish and two large pieces of veg swimming in a heavily watered down gloop that’s supposed to be curry. Marina thought this might have been made from an instant curry pack, I disagreed as I though the instant variety kicks more taste and punch. Poor beyond belief.
The two drinks that we had were pathetic and expensive. The Lychee juice tasted artificial and lacking any real bits of lychee fruit, I think legally speaking this should be sold as ‘Lychee’ flavoured drink! My Kopi O was huge, this Malaysian black coffee with sugar (gone awol!) was anything but, like the squid curry, it seems that Melur are at least consistent with one thing and that’s the art of dilution. I complained to the young waitress about my coffee and all she muttered was ‘Is it?!’ (to be honest I'm not too sure which punctuation she intended). That’s it, no further reaction. I’m not bragging but if my teenage daughter was instructed with this feedback, she would’ve offered a replacement tout de suite or at least take the damn drink off the bill. Dolly, the excellent waitress I spoke highly off in my earlier posting was not working this evening.
Marina- exhausted to say the least. I once commented to Little Miss Random that if I were to have dinner with a female companion at a venue of my choice, I would forsake the norm of going Dutch and foot the entire bill myself if the meal was crap.
It was indeed and I’m £40.00 poorer. What a waste of money and made doubly worse when Liverpool was knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea.
Like I said I tried my best to like this place, but it failed me. I’ll see you somewhere else but it won’t be here, ever.
NB There’s one other thing that bugs me incessantly, has the owner of this place actually been to the likes of Rasa Sayang, Sedap and dare I say it Malaysia Hall? I’m in retail myself and I always keep an eye on the competition, gumption I would say.
Hawker Food Stalls are fascinating to say the least. The nearest thing that we have in the capital are the illegal hot dog stands duping tourists and drunk football fans alike with their processed ‘meat’ logs of dubious quality.
If one were to visit any of the South East Asian countries and for some baffling reason decide to forsake on eating at a hawker food stall; he or she will inevitably loose out on the whole cultural aspect of that country’s cuisine. A large bulk of the food from this part of the world come from the hawkers. Let’s take for an example some of us folks opted to spend a week at an isolated resort on the island of Langkawi- yes the hotel kitchen will dish out anything from egg white omelette to local hawker ‘style’ favourites. The latter term is indeed a trifle worrying, why? This is down to the clinical and formulaic approach to cooking food in hotel kitchens, this practice is often transferred on to the final taste of the food- at best sterile. But before we all jump the gun and defy, it’s worth noting that not all ‘local’ food that we sample at the hotels are inferior. In fact the cooking can result in rather good eating as well but they will always lack what is already ingrained on the hawker cooks with the following; edge, technique and most important of all, soul. This is my fourth or so visit to Melur. My past review of this Malaysian restaurant can be read here at Trusted Places. Melur is the Malay word for jasmine. I’ve deliberated long enough on whether to post a review of the place on this blog. This is due to the poor reviews generated by Malaysians and more positive ones from the nons- this insight can only be suggestive of one thing and that’s faux Malaysian food which non Malaysians fall for. My previous visits here were more in line with the latter, positive.
For a basement eatery, the owners have obviously made an effort with the interiors and ambience. No signs of dankness or candent vagueness here, but a well judged contemporary dining room that’s comfortably lit.
I’ve always found the service here wonderful, especially so if the young and friendly lady by the name of Dolly is performing the tasks. I’ve yet to be bogged down by any inefficiency or frivolousness, she’s simply imperturbable.
I came here on the advice of a little birdy who took heed of a meal offer that Melur were promoting. The Chef’s Special is a three-course meal at £7.95 and it’s available for lunch all day (till 5.30pm I think) Monday to Wednesday until 31 March 2009. Melur deserves some kind credit for their part during the crunch-need-not-mention. I must say the selections on offer are pretty generous and not just the usual restrictions with a few token bores.
I started off with Sup Kambing- peppery mutton soup of Indian Malaysian origin. The small bowl may not look as photogenic as one that has minestrone in it, but thankfully it tasted fine.
An authentic serving of this soup would be cluttered with a large amount of mutton on the bone drowned in rich and invariably over spiced stock. This one was obviously toned down and easy eating; you’ll like it.
The mains of Char Kway Teow- fried flat noodles. The carrot noodle garnish was a nice touch, better than just mere plonking. Again not entirely faithful to the hawker’s standard, it was more than edible albeit a little too chilli hot (hence the reddish colour!)
Melur is halal restaurant, the original calls for pork lard to cook the dish; the lack of this fundamental ingredient is akin to oven baked crisps as opposed the ones fried in full fat! Again I’m giving Melur its due, this halal version is commendable.
The final course of Kuih Dadar- coconut pancake roll. The off-putting garish green is down to the juice of the aromatic pandan plant used. This dessert may prove a bit of a challenge for most peeps, the colour aside, the texture is not too dissimilar to biting into a chewy lasagne sheet. The desiccated coconut was too anaemic in appearance, it needed to look and taste more treacly with more additon of the essential component of dark palm sugar. Below average. 10/10 for putting this on the menu but 4/10 for the end result.
So what Melur has done for me today is to confirm that the cooking stems from the hotel ‘school’ as discussed above. It lacks the ultimate depth and impact of either Rasa Sayang or Malaysia Kopi Tiam, but then again the latter two are non halal. Currently I would pitch Melur between the two halal stalwarts of Makan and the Malaysia Hall Canteen (with Melur being a thousand times more comfy than the other two put together). The lunch deal is good value and the service lovely. I need to come back here with some dining companions (any volunteers?) to try out the à la carte. A Lib Dem recommendation, for now.
175A Edgware Road
London W2 1ET
London W2 1ET