Warung Padang London: incredible Indonesian food in Bermondsey
** UPDATE: Warung Padang London rebranded to Japindo in Nov 2016 following the departure of their previous chef Aak Firdaus Bustaman. Japindo continues to serve Indonesian specialities at the same Bermondsey location alongside a new menu of Japanese dishes. We haven’t haven’t had the chance to visit the new rebranded restaurant yet to test out the new menu. **
Sometimes, the most authentic of ethnic cuisines can be found in the most unexpected of places. Cue in Warung Padang London in Bermondsey. Located in a budget hostel opposite the tube station, this casual, no-frills eatery in the middle of a South East London council estate is serving up some of the most authentic Indonesian food I’ve tasted outside of Indonesia.
Chef Aak who is head chef at Warung Padang was previously based on Charing Cross Road in Chinatown. They’ve been at their new Bermondsey premises for just over 9 months now. With a menu that reads like a greatest hits album of Indonesia’s most famous dishes from Sumatra, Java & beyond, expect to find everything from Gado Gado to Rendang… Nasi Padang to Soto Ayam. And with most things priced round the £8 mark, it’s an absolute steal by London standards considering the flavours and spices packed into each dish.
The menu had me at Ayam Penyet – my ultimate favourite Indonesian dish of them all. A Javanese speciality of fried chicken that’s been scored, stuffed with sambal then smashed until it becomes ‘penyet’ (literally meaning squashed in Bahasa) to ensure maximum sambal exposure, Warung Padang’s version is completely on point. The fried chicken is tender, the skin slightly crisp. The generous lathering of fiery sambal is bursting with fresh chillies and pungent but incredibly moreish trassie (fermented shrimp paste). Served with a good helping of steamed rice, cucumber, peanuts and fried tempeh (fermented soy bean cakes) on the side, it’s lip-smackingly good and fast becoming one of my favourite one plate dishes in town.
Their Nasi Padang, a Sumatran speciality of steamed rice served with an ensemble of delicious dishes and condiments is also a hit. Their ‘special’ version here comes in full force with the whole supporting cast – crispy fried chicken, sambal egg, kale curry, sambal hijau, & sambal badjak. And lets not forget the star of the Nasi Padang show – an aromatic, fragrant Beef Rendang that’s melt-in-the-mouth, bursting with South-East Asian spices and one of the best you will find in all of London.
Nasi Padang Spesial
If you are looking for some greens to accompany the one plate wonders here, they do a very decent Gado Gado vegetable medley, topped with creamy peanut sauce. Even more delicious however is the Ketuprak which we discovered on a recent visit. It’s somewhat similar to Gado-Gado, but the vegetable medley is served atop a bed of fried vermicelli noodles in kecap manis (sweet soy sauce). The different textures and full-on flavours at play are just spot on.
On the couple of occasions I’ve visited to date, it was only Chef Aak behind the stoves plus one assistant doubling up as sous chef and front of house. Hence, expect a bit of a wait for your food when it gets busy or if you attend in a large group – it’s a cosy joint with a small team after all. The amount of flavour a tenner can buy you here though will make it completely worth the wait and trip. You are bound to have a field day out here if you love South East Asian food.
p.s. Thanks to the ever intrepid Su Lin of Tamarind & Thyme for the tip off about this gem.