Friday, 8 May 2009

Bonda Café

The best Rendang Daging in London is currently found at Bonda Café. However there’s also the small problem with ‘off-days’ at this place, the dish in question can taste pretty depressing to the spirit. Maybe I’m just being hard on Bonda, rendang always tastes best when it has been lingering for days (gets better with time and whatnot) and perhaps I’ve been unfortunate with eating the dish when it was freshly cooked. Tough cuts of beef when rushed during the cooking process amount to nothing but chewy pemmican. Lest I forget Rendang Daging is the traditional Malay beef dish cooked in coconut milk with a cornucopia of South East Asian spices.

Bonda is affectionately ‘Mommie Dearest’ (my interpretation) in Malay. It’s located in the basement of a rather tired (possibly seedy) looking guest house/student hall known as Mara House.

Its Paddington whereabouts is more typically associated with restaurants hell-bent on tourist-trap intentions. Bonda Café’s predecessor, Nahar Cafeteria was a stalwart of Malay dining houses in London; in spite of its grimness and forlorn ambience it was championed by a lot of people for its cheap but half decent food.

When Bonda took over around a year and a half ago they set out to bring some kind of modernity to the dining room.

Yes it’s more modern, but like most cellar dining outfits (especially cafés) they age in no time.

To the good people who suffer from SAD, beware of the fact that Bonda’s only source of natural daylight comes from one lone window (actually come to think of it the ventilation as well!).

Somehow I can’t picture how this place is able to host a Valentine's night. Service here is polite and suitably egalitarian.

For cheap eats, Bonda is one of only three places (Makan and Malaysia Hall Canteen) that offer Nasi Campur. This is basically plain rice with up to three selections of pre-cooked dishes of your choice plus a very token side of boiled cabbage. From £4.20 to £5.50.

This set meal option is dirt cheap, wonderful eating and as long as you’re not a certain A. Gloop, it’s mighty filling. Like Nasi Lemak, Nasi Campur is a dish that flies the flag for Malaysia.

Most of the other one-dish meals are noodle based. They’re ok-ish and they can’t stand up to the non-halal offerings found at MKT, Rasa Sayang or Sedap.

There’s also an array of dish warmers that sits alongside the main kitchen counter.

Here you’ll find some Malaysian street snacks like fish balls on skewers, otak-otak (fish cake wrapped in banana leaf), curry puffs, Pisang Goreng (fried banana) and fritters of all sorts including this-

Cucur Udang (Prawn Fritters) very oily, but like all things deep fried they’re always twice as nice to eat.

One of the stand out dishes from the à la carte is the Ikan Goreng Berlada (Deep fried mackerel in chilli sauce).

Again on an off day, this dish can be mercilessly oily, but by enlarge it is an enthralling dish. It’s spicy, fragrant and will almost certainly blow your socks away.

Oh if you thought asparagus gives urine a distinctive smell, well you haven’t tried petai beans (also known as stink beans in Chinese). These easy eating blighters
(despite what Wiki implies) will guarantee you place with the Whiffy Appreciation Society for up to three days! Go on I dare you, they are offered fried in hot chilli sambal with either anchovies or prawns.

The Rendang Daging, as Bonda's motto suggests is a 'home away from home' dish. Melting meat, rich and spicy coconut sauce, and the smell of lemon grass is heavenly. So let us stress once again, on a good day, this is my most perfect beef rendang in London.

Bonda Café is an another great addition to the list of halal Malaysian dining. Highly recommended.

190 Sussex Gardens
London W2 1PU


Su-Lin said...

Oooh, I tried Nahar a while ago but didn't realise that they switched to Bonda. Must try it now!

What's the price of the otak-otak, btw? They're always so expensive here....might push me to actually make it at home one day.

bellaphon said...

Wow! Homemade Otties, you're brave! I think they were £1.50 each.

canelvr said...

Went to try out Bonda last night — closed for refurbishing till 15th! (Forget whether that date's inclusive or not.) Don't know when I'll make it back up Paddington way...

bellaphon said...

Hey Cane, what a let down! You should've gone to Malaysia Hall instead. Thanks for letting us know ;)

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