Bonda Cafe: an authentic, no-frills Malaysian caff that’s a home away from home
One of the age-old questions I tend to get asked most is ‘Where can I find the best Malaysian food in London‘? Well, Malaysia Kopitiam in China Town is still alright despite somewhat selling out and branching out into Thai food recently. Sedap on Old Street is a decent bet but the portions seem to have gotten a little small of late. Delima was great option in the East End up until they closed down this summer due to lack of demand (boo!).
But if there is one gem from my uni days I recently revisited that’s a firm reminder it should sit top of my list of Malaysian restaurants in London, it’s the low-key but incredibly authentic Bonda Cafe.
Tucked away in a basement lot off Sussex Gardens in Paddington, Bonda Cafe is simply the closest thing to a home away from home for Malaysians living in London. It’s a humble, no-frills place. White-washed walls… self-serve cutlery… tables lined with disposable A3 leaflets advertising some sort of travel deal featuring the Petronas Twin Towers.
Unless you specifically ask for the A la Carte menu, the staff here normally assume diners are going for the Nasi Campur (‘mixed rice’). And why wouldn’t you? A mere £4.50 will buy you a huge portion of steamed rice that you can mix with one of their many daily main dishes and a side of vegetables. Add on a couple quid extra as we did and you can pimp up your Nasi Campur to 3 main dishes. The most difficult part of assembling your Nasi Campur is of course deciding what it is you want to campur from the wide variety of meat, seafood and vegetable dishes gently simmering away on their buffet-style hot trays. Curries… braised dishes… stir-fries… deep-fried delights… I wanted them ALL.
The Ayam Masak Merah (chicken cooked in a spicy tomato, chilli and ginger-based sauce) was mouth-wateringly good. The chicken was plump and the blazing-red gravy was tangy, sweet and spicy all at the same time. Even better was the Sambal Ikan (deep-fried fish with chilli-paste). The mackerel steak was fragrant from deep-frying and the sambal had a wonderful depth of flavour and spicy-sweet kick to it. Happy days and as good as anything you will find back home in Malaysia.
We also sampled their Mee Mamak Goreng, a spicy fried noodle dish with chicken, egg, potatoes and fried bean-curd that hails from the Indian-Muslim community of Malaysia. The flavours were full-on and a comforting reminder of the hawker street stalls you find on every street corner back home. I did however find the dish too starchy and a tad dry from over-frying. I usually prefer my Mee Mamak moister and with far less potatoes to keep the dish light.
On the whole, lunch for 2, including a couple of well-made traditional drinks came up to a not so princely sum of £15. You won’t find a better budget option serving authentic Malaysian cuisine anywhere else in London.
190 Sussex Gardens, Paddington, W2 1TU | bondacafe.blogspot.co.uk | Sunday 9th August 2012