Restaurants & Bars

Gourmet Garden, Jakarta, William Curley, El Vergel - London

limster | Jul 17, 201002:23 PM    

• Gourmet Garden (Hendon)
A solid pie tee -- crispy cups made from fried batter, and filled with a vegetable filling (mostly bangkuan/jicama), topped with a prawn and perhaps some egg in the background. Not the absolute most complex filling (usually more varieties of vegetables are involved), but decent. The chicken rice was pretty good (could smell it when the next table got theirs) -- aromatic with sesame oil and chicken stock. The chicken was fairly tender, poached on the bone (could be even more lightly poached, many excellent versions have the bones still pink). I did like Sedap's version better -- the chilli sauce at the latter had a better combination of ginger/garlic, and they also offered a dark soy sauce, whereas the chilli sauce at Gourmet Garden seemed simpler and sweeter. I think the version at Malaysian Kopitiam might still be the best I've had in London so far, but it's been a long time. Finally, the chendol was good, the stripes made from rice flour were not mushy, the cubes of dark chin chow (a sweet firm jelly made from seaweed) and the combination of coconut milk and dark palm sugar just right. No red beans in it, which is the way I like mine. Not bad on the whole, but for what I had, there are comparable or better renditions in central London.

• Jakarta (Colindale)
Chicken satay consisted of tender breast meat, but seemed pan fried or something, instead of grilled on charcoal, which would have produced crispy delicious charry bits. The sauce was fine, a basic peanut sauce, and there wasn't a trace of kecap manis, a dark sweet sauce used in certain parts of Indonesia. Sayoh lodeh (a veg curry) tasted like a Thai curry, heavier on lemongrass than usual; for a very good version, Sedap is still a benchmark. They used napa cabbage instead of regular cabbage, and there were tons of canned bamboo shoots. A minus in my book, as was the sotong semur, squid cooked in a dark sweet sauce with tomato that seemed flat and slightly fishy. Pretty ordinary at best I'm afraid, although it's a small sample, and I was wondering if anyone has had their curry dishes (e.g. rendang) that could offer a more comprehensive sample. Will likely have to look for Indonesian food somewhere else.

• William Curley (Belgravia)
Good scotch pancakes, about 1cm thick, a nice balance of moisture, density, plumpness and lightness. A simple unfussy blueberry compote with a serious amount of blueberries and flavour, cut nicely by some rich, stiff and creamy yogurt. Very good pistachio and vanilla ice cream, each bright with flavour, topped with pieces of caramel croquant, and supported by a cherry compote, wonderfully laced with an even woodsy cinnamon flavour. They're also serving their dessert menu now. Looked pretty good if slightly expensive (£15) for 3 courses of dessert (used to be £10 or £12 at the Sheppard's Market location).

• El Vergel (Borough)
The new location is spacious and airy. Good sour finish in the moderately spicy chorizo. Nice scrambled eggs with a hint of spice, slightly sludgy (in a good way) black beans, and good slices of their rendition of pan amasado, the bread used in their charcarero.

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