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Champor Champor

62-64 Weston Street, London, England, SE1 3QJ, United Kingdom

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The dining room is quite cosy, with candles on each table and rather eccentric decor. There are oriental screens, a wooden angel hanging from the ceiling, an ornamental door frame and assorted statuary packed into the room. Overall I found it quite likable. The menu is not in the usual Asian style of shared courses; instead there were starters, main courses and desserts (£23.50 for two courses, £27.90 for three courses) and there is even an option (£2.80) for a sorbet or granita before the main course. Though the owner is Malaysian, the food is drawn from all over Asia and beyond. Rather than just listing dishes from different countries, in some cases the menu mixes influences within a dish e.g. roast ostrich, sweet and sour soy and Thai basil pesto rice is not something you are likely to find turning up on your plate in Thailand. There is a point when fusion becomes confusion, and I fear they are straying into that territory here. 

We were brought slices of crumbly banana bread and very thin tofu skin, which I have not had before. My mental database of tofu skin experiences had zero entries until now, so I am not sure how fine or otherwise an example it was of the genre; it is a little like a soft version of carte musica, tasting of not very much and having the consistency of wallpaper. There is a simple but decent wine list, with Chateau Musar at a very fair £33.

There is an amuse bouche: a little popadom rolled up containing diced grilled peppers (11/20) and a dollop of confit salmon on a spoon (11/20). A starter of “Penang soft shell crab bhaji rojak” was enjoyable, the pieces of crab in a sweet and spicy peanut gravy, bulked out with diced vegetables and even a little pineapple. Sometimes soft shell crab can be rather chewy, but here it was cooked well, the sauce working quite well with the crab (13/20). Even better was a dish of king prawns in garlic oil, curry leaves and Borneo green peppercorns. The prawns were very tender, the garlic oil an excellent foil to the prawns, and the peppercorns gave a pleasing bite to the dish (14/20). 

My ostrich was cooked medium, and was very pleasant in itself, going well with the thick sweet and spicy sauce in which it rested; however Thai basil pesto rice seems to me a bad idea, and one that added did not work well with the sauce at all. Moreover a conventional salad had a searingly acidic dressing  (12/20 for the dish, though if they had just left the ostrich on its own with the sauce I would have scored this one or even two points higher). Balinese style sea bream was baked in a banana leaf with fennel somtam (spicy Thai salad) and coconut rice. This was a much more harmonious affair. I often cook a very similar dish to this at home, though this has Indian (Parsee) origins. Here the bream was cooked well, though the salad was surprisingly unspicy (12/20). 

We stopped there and did not sample desserts, which included “green tea steamed cake with green tea ice cream” to give you some idea of what was on offer. Service was attentive and friendly throughout, and dishes arrived at a sensible pace. The restaurant was doing very well on this Monday night, despite its out of the way location tucked away down a quiet street near Guys hospital. Personally I think they would do better if they toned down the amount of fusion influences on the menu, since the standard of cooking is actually quite good e.g. the excellent prawns. 

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