Singapore Garden, Swiss Cottage, 14/20


THIS one rather slipped under my radar. The waitress tells me it has been here for 34 or 35 years, but I had never heard of it even if I have lived pretty close by for many years. TA tells me it is only 92 out of 789 Chinese restaurants in London which is a bit tough given it is not really that Chinese at all. The menu says Giles Coren and Fay Maschler have been here, but otherwise the sub suburban flatlands below Swiss Cottage don’t usually throw up good restaurants. So this is one I-had-never-heard-of, but it is lovely, old school, a proper restaurant dining room with linen tablecloths, a fully stocked bar and staff who may have been here 34 or 35 years, although there seemed to be a few youngsters wrapped in malay dresses being taught the ropes. The menu is authentic in the sense that Malay cooking is largely a fusion anyway and so there are overlapping Thai and Chinese dishes here too.

The laksa is a singular reason to go, a brimming red, fiery hot pot of broth and thin noodles. At £10 it may be the best value single dish north of Marylebone Road. Here it is:

IMG_2257 In the middle of that redness are curry spices, vermicelli, beansprouts, prawns and even Chinese style  fishcakes…Uncle Internet tells me laksa might have paired mackerel and tamarind, coconut and lime, chicken and lemongrass, beef and peanuts and a few others besides but this one is pretty definitive.

There were some other very good dishes on a second visit – notably the aubergines in a claypot braised with a mellow yellow bean sauce

IMG_2265 and also something I have not seen for ages which is chicken – and shitake mushrooms – cooked in a paper bag, a great trick.IMG_2266I had a little more difficulty with a couple of dishes listed as specialities –  the Fried Kway Tiow – rice  sticks fried with prawns, eggs, pork, soya sauce and mild chilli sauce – a sort Malay chow mein, worthy rather than great. I was struggling too with all the satay sauce that swamps the deep fried tofu and its garnish of deep fried beansprouts, which given this is a Malay restaurant, felt a bit strange. It might look good, but you really have to love the saaaaataaaaaayyyyyy.

Reading some of the other gripes on TA, I realise it is also a bit of a savvy menu in that you could eat for £10 but push out the steamboat (£42) and cocktails and equally the bill would mount up. Set meals start at £34. How 1980s is that? Most main dishes are £10 and one per person with rice might be enough. Best to book, it is popular.


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