Uncle Lim's Malaysian Kitchen is reputed to serve the best chicken rice in London, or rather in Greater London, as it is actually located in the Whitgift Centre in Croydon. It had thus been on my to-try list for quite a while now, and I eventually managed to make my way down there late one Saturday afternoon.
The place is a canteen, and from the looks of things, much of its business actually comes from its selection of ready-made dishes, mostly of standard Chinese takeaway variety - think sweet & sour chicken, black bean prawns and the like, slapped onto a plate with rice and/or noodles; hardly the stuff to herald great culinary talent. But I guess you gotta pay the bills, and if that's what the customers want...
There is also a selection of “Special Dishes”, of which the famed Hai Nan Chicken Rice took pride of place. I ordered one up immediately, only to be informed that...they had sold out! What?! I drag myself down here, after weeks (months) of procrastination, and they had sold out of the one, the only, thing I had come to try?! So, amid great disappointment, I was left with no choice but to opt for the lady's alternative recommendation, the Char Kuey Teow. It was very average - a bit too wet, and lacking any “Wok Hei” - the flavour imparted by a flaming wok, without which a char kway teow dish should never be served. The fact that I'm even calling this dish “average” despite the absence of “Wok Hei” only serves to show how much my accepted standards for this dish have slipped since coming to this country - there is only one place I have discovered in the UK that does this, one of my favourite dishes, justice, and that's Sedap on Old Street; everything else is a poor imitation, at best, and it was in that pile that Uncle Lim's version firmly sat.
The Teh Tarik I ordered to drink took an absolute age, despite there being no more than 3 tables of patrons, and by the time it came, I was practically done with my meal. It wasn't exactly worth the wait either, and I left more than half the cup. A fruitless visit in every way.
Having finally actually made it down to Croydon, I was determined not to let my momentum slip, and forced myself to return the next day, this time getting there well before 1pm. Surely they would still have some chicken rice available at 1pm! My heart skipped a beat when I placed my order but this time, all the lady said was "Please have a seat, it will be ready in a few minutes". Game on.
First spoonful of rice...hmm, decent flavour, but could be stronger? Second spoonful...a bit dry perhaps. Third spoonful...yeah rice certainly on the dry side, and definitely could be better flavoured. Onto the chicken...oh not bad. Not bad at all. Soft, and crucially, moist all the way through – definitely above average. So on the whole, reasonable, but not great. Was it the equal of anything I've had in central London? Yeah probably. Was it better? Nah.
In a nutshell...
All in all, a rather unsuccessful journey out of London town. Uncle Lim's chicken rice was indeed amongst the best renditions of this much loved dish I have come across in and around the capital. If I lived in the area, I'd be here all the time. As I don't, I will probably never return, as I can get a similar standard at many a central London location. If you do visit, based on my Char Kuey Teow, I'd stay clear of anything else on the menu not named Hai Nan Chicken Rice.
Uncle Lim’s Malaysian Kitchen
1123-1124 The Whitgift Shopping Centre, Croydon, Surrey, CR0 1UZ
Average Price: £6