MANDALAY: OPERATION BURMA
It’s bad enough having lunch with someone who insists on calling you “Uncle Simon” even when you don’t look remotely old enough to have a niece (shut up!). It is even worse when they suddenly produce a camera that makes you want to hide your own tiny little thing in shame (shut up again!)
My young friend, Lex from Kuala Lumpur is in town on a work/study visa and demanded the presence of my company for lunch, which was no great hardship as all I am faced with right now is a year’s worth of receipts from thirty countries to count and file for Her Majesty’s Government.
The good photographs are hers, by the way.
In the current spirit of the credit crunch, I decided to introduce Lex to the joys of The Edgware Road and London’s only Burmese restaurant that I am aware of. Mandalay may not look like much from the outside, but this small little café on the wrong side of The Westway has been run successfully by the same family for the last thirteen years and, in that time has picked up favourable notices and one or two gongs for its good value food.
I know little about Burma other than the current political problems and the fact that it was saved single handed from Japan by The Duke during WWII. I know less about its food other than it draws heavy influences from its neighbours, Thailand, China and Bangladesh. But, you don’t need to be an expert to know that the food at Mandalay is prepared with a great deal of care, decent ingredients and a generosity of spirit all too lacking in London these days.
Starters plates of calabash fritters and shrimp & vegetable fritters are excellent value and come to the table hot and crispy as did four bite sized samusa filled with lightly spiced minced chicken, all delivering up clean and bright flavours with only a tired papaya & cucumber salad letting the average slide.
Main courses were more standard but, again both worthwhile and well priced, particularly a lightly scented curry of chicken & Lemongrass with decent sized chunks of meat and a delicious sauce. The accompanying dish of bamboo shoots came with a slick of oil, which didn’t worry me, but had health conscious Lex pushing the plate in my direction with a look which said “don’t worry, I’ll come to your funeral, Uncle Simon”
With some plain rice and a couple of soft drinks, the bill came to £30 for two including tip for service which was charming if faced with only three other diners. That seems to be about the average for budget lunches since my return and reasonable particularly given the quality of the starters.
Lex has posited Fish & Chips for her next London dining experience, which seems fair enough. In the meantime, Mandalay was as fine an introduction to our cosmopolitan city as any.
Welcome to London, Lex