I recently stumbled upon this family-run Singaporean restaurant in Holland Park, which has been in existence since 1975. Always in search of a hidden gem, and especially one that serves food from my original neck of the woods (or close enough anyway) - Malaysia, in my current neck of the woods - West London, I thought I would give it a go.
The restaurant’s basement location on Holland Park Avenue looks like it hasn’t been updated since it first opened - the room is dimly lit (think dreary rather than romantic) with a tacky décor not dissimilar in style to the tasteless interiors we had to endure at a large number of Chinese restaurants in Malaysia and Singapore in the late 70s and early 80s - tiled/parquet flooring, hideous green chairs, red-coloured wooden accents, red-brick walls and unsightly orange napkins. There was not one thing about the setting that looked or felt good, or was in any sort of harmony.
The menu contained your standard Chinese takeaway fare - chicken, pork, prawn in pick your sauce - sweet & sour, oyster, black bean; a few less-standard dishes such as Tibetan Garlic Lamb and Chilli Lobster; a house speciality of Steamboat; and a number of “Singapore Specialities” (including a rather curious option of Fish & Chips). We eschewed the Chinese entries on this occasion and went for the (proper) Singapore Specialities, sharing a Laksa, Char Kway Tiow and Singapore oyster omelette.
The laksa was fairly tasty and authentic, but lacked the depth of flavour one would get from this dish in the Far East. It was, nevertheless, a decent version by London standards. The oyster omelette was, like the laksa, also a reasonable representation of the real thing, dare I say the best I’ve had in London - light and fluffy, not oily, and with good-sized oysters. It did, however, lack the true gooey ‘goodness’ the best oyster omelette preparations possess. The Char Kway Tiow was bad - the kway teow, or flat noodles, were far too thick - and chewy and insipid rather than springy and airy like they should be. It was also completely lacking in the “Wok Hei” – the flavour imparted by a flaming wok, necessary for a successful char kway teow dish. The soya bean milk drink was awful - it was clearly watered-down, and had a burnt taste to it.
In a nutshell…
Not the hidden gem I was hoping for, but a couple of decent dishes, and reasonable prices, meant it wasn't a total write-off either.
Singapore Chinese Restaurant
120-122 Holland Park Avenue, London, W11 4UA
Average Price: £10-£20