Something I miss about living in Asia is the food. From Singaporean eats to Malaysian feasts to the emerging identity of Filipino cuisine, the regional gastronomic scene is one to excite palates and bellies on a global scale. Surely, there’s nothing better than hopping on a plane and flying over for the authentic stuff but thankfully, C&R Cafe in Chinatown is close enough to take one back to the land of big, bold, brave and beautiful flavours.
Tucked down an alleyway in Chinatown which, frankly, may have seen more post-night shenanigans than anywhere else, C&R isn’t particularly fine-dining material, but trust me you’ll dine finely here. Even food critic Jay Rayner thinks so.
I mean when you ask for chilli and you get this, that’s saying something, right?
Let’s start with the nasi lemak.
Possibly their bestseller, this Malay national dish comes aplenty for just £8. The tender chicken is smothered in creamy coconut curry and the accompaniments (peanuts, anchovies, achar, boiled egg – which I don’t eat) were decent. I feel the sambal chilli itself could pack a bit more heat, but that’s just my preference.
The chicken curry with bone (£7.50) comes with your choice of rice or noodles. It’s creamy and punchy and the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. Love this with the fresh chillies in soy.
The ngar choy kai (£7.50) is essentially similar to Hainanese chicken rice except it’s served on a bed of beansprouts instead of cucumber. It’s not particularly pretty but the steamed chicken is so flavoursome and the rice, cooked in chicken essence, is so fragrant and moreish.
I’m not usually a fan of nasi goreng (£7.50) but my gosh, C&R’s offering packs very good flavour. There’s also plenty of seafood and veg going around so you don’t feel cheated with just rice on the plate.
C&R’s teow chow stewed pork belly (£7.50) looks nothing like the traditional dish you get in Asia but admittedly the flavour was bolder, perhaps due to excessive use of soy. Served with steamed broccoli and rice, the braised pork resembled Philippine adobo so I was still happy with it.
The sambal ayam goreng (£7) is one of my guilty pleasures. Crispy fried chicken wings drowning in that sambal sauce? It’s naughty and nice all over!
I mean you can have the plain fried chicken wings (£5) if you wanted to, but seriously, try the sambal wings and you’d be mindblown for sure.
The sambal taucho (£8.50) is something I’d order to hit my 5-a-day. This dish also reminds me of my childhood when my nanny would cook all sorts of of veg with prawns to make me eat it. C&R’s French bean dish isn’t bad although I would’ve preferred a bit more crunch.
And for those who aren’t as brave with hot stuff, a side of achar awak (£6) might just help you out. Essentially pickled veg with some crunchy nuts and seeds, this Malaysian salad is sweet and relatively refreshing.
Overall, C&R Cafe has become one of my favourite cheap eats in town.
It’s definitely a place I’d go to when my taste buds feel homesick for Asia. It’s cheap, quick and absolutely unpretentious which reminds me of hawker houses in Singapore. Service is fast-food based but quite friendly and polite. The food consistently hits the spot and really takes you back to South East Asia. I’ve yet to try the laksa which I’ve heard good things about, but I’m saving the giant bowls for winter time.
What’s your favourite cheap eat in London?