Restaurant Review: Penang!

And no, the exclamation mark is not a typo.

When N and I were travelling last year (it does not feel that long ago!), one of the places we were most excited about visiting was South East Asia, mainly because of the amazing food. From banana pancakes in Laos and Cambodia to Thai curries and Vietnamese spring rolls, we pretty much pigged out for an entire six weeks. But one of the places that most surprised me in terms of its food culture was the island of Penang, off the western coast of Malaysia. It's a real melting pot of different cuisines including Chinese, Thai, Indian and Malaysian and there is so much choice that I could often spend a good ten minutes deciding what to eat. So when I went up to Westfield this weekend and spotted that there was a Malaysian restaurant called Penang!, I couldn't resist popping in for some lunch.



 

The set-up at Penang! is pretty similar to other South East Asian chains such as Wagamama or Busaba Eathai - you can order a selection of small plates such as chicken satay, salt and pepper squid or various dumplings, or can opt for a larger main meal like char kway teow (rice noodles with soy sauce, prawns, chicken, beansprouts and spring onions). Inside, it's incredibly colourful, with bright yellow chairs, hanging paper lanterns and a huge wall mural of Mr Zhuri, who is everywhere in the marketing and who I'm not quite sure is real. It definitely reminded me of street markets in Malaysia but with a trendy London twist, and I liked the family-friendly vibe from the wall of kids' drawings.



There is a ridiculous amount of choice on the menu, but as I had a bit of a cold coming on I opted for the laksa, a slightly spicy dish of rice noodles in coconut broth served with what were billed as 'fish bites' - but which tasted quite a lot like tofu - plus chicken, prawns, half a boiled egg, some kind of green bean-like vegetables, mint and coriander. Foolishly, I didn't think it would be as big as it was - there was a lot of sauce and at the end I was drinking it like soup. Note to self: next time, get a roti parata (Indian-style flatbread that is everywhere in Malaysia) for dunking purposes. However, it tasted absolutely amazing and took me right back to being in Singapore and sitting in a hawker centre eating bowls of fresh laksa and swigging iced Milo, a malty chocolately drink that I got slightly addicted to in South East Asia. It was spicy, but not too much so, with big chunks of chicken and prawns and a lovely, slightly rich sauce - a meal you could sit and enjoy for a while, providing you don't mind the occasional sauce splatter (don't wear a white top if you're coming here!).



Total cost for one bowl of laksa, a ginger beer and tip: £15, which I think is pretty reasonable considering how big the bowl of food was! If you were going for the small plates I think depending how many you got - they recommend two to four - you'd be paying about £20-25 each including drink and tip, so a bit more on the expensive side. I also have to say that the service was great - admittedly it wasn't particularly busy when I went but the staff were still very quick and attentive whilst not seeming too eager to get rid of me.

Overall I have to say I was very impressed with Penang! and would definitely go back there again. The only disappointment I have is that there aren't more branches - at the moment it's just the one at Shepherd's Bush Westfield - but if you're there shopping and fancy something a bit different for lunch then I highly recommend it.

Do you have a favourite Asian restaurant?

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow I wish there was one closer to me because this sounds AND looks delicious! Food I rarely get the opportunity to try, looks lovely xxxx


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