I was moaning about the loss of Oriental City and its roti stall one day when a colleague pointed out that Awana, quite an upscale Malaysian restaurant in South Kensington/Chelsea, had a proper man to flip roti canais in their restaurant. If you’ve not seen a roti canai prepared before, you’re in for a treat – check out this video. Roti canai (or roti prata in Singapore) is a flaky flatbread that is just wonderful with curries and it’s quite difficult to find them freshly made here in London. I had to try those at Awana, despite their mixed reviews.
I booked the restaurant through Toptable, taking advantage of the 50% off deal. I’ll list the regular prices here and then you’ll see why this deal is a necessity when eating here! We ordered as we normally would though; when all the food arrived on the table, I did start to worry that perhaps we had over ordered, with the discount on our minds, somehow we managed to finish it all.
We had two plain roti canais (£6.50 each – woah!) and had one each of the sauces – a red curry sauce and a dahl curry sauce. The rotis were alright – generally thin and flaky though a little stodgy in places and they could have used a little more fat between the layers and during frying. The dahl was lovely but the red curry sauce was like nothing I’d ever encountered: there was an all pervading flavour of cinnamon with which someone in the kitchen was a little too heavy handed. It was good fun though watching as our rotis were made; large screen TVs dotted around the restaurant show a live feed of what’s happening at the roti station.
The pai ti (crispy pastry cups filled with prawns, chicken,bamboo, mushroom, carrot and coriander) (£7.50) were the best dish that night, I think. My mother used to make these at home and I have the mould for the cups that she gave to me and these just reminded me so much of her. These were full of flavour and the pastry cups retained their crispness well.
The corn-fed chicken satay (£8.00) were the largest satay I’d ever seen! The meat dark ,tender and moist but there just wasn’t enough flavour coming from the marinade. The satay sauce was very sweet and almost seemed like a pineapple satay sauce that’s quite popular in Singapore nowadays. The accompanying chunks of cucumber and red onion were pathetic – the cucumber was dried out and the onion still had its roots attached.
I wanted to try their ikan bakar (whole seabass baked with herbs, lemongrass, garlic and chilli paste served with lime and seafood sauce) (£18.00). It would have been better if it had been grilled (as the name implies) but this one was baked – luckily, it was well cooked and moist and overall a good fish. The garlic and chilli paste on top though was very mild and really needed more of a spice boost; the seafood sauce was a mild, tangy, oniony sauce that helped.
For a vegetable, we had the stir-fried morning glory with garlic (£5.50) – very simple and perfectly passable. I do wish our waitress had told us that we could have this stir-fried with sambal as another waitress told our neighbouring table. Boo.
We had coconut rice (£3.50) with all this food. Yeah, carbs with carbs. Anyway, it was well cooked but with very little coconut milk. And the waitress’ enthusiasm to scoop lots of it onto our plates as soon as it arrived was a little annoying; I mean, we were still eating our rotis.
Somehow, we still had space for dessert! Awana has a very long dessert menu and a few of them involved sweet versions of roti canai. Despite our gluttonous consumption of two of them for dinner already, we ordered a sweet third – the pisang roti canai (sweetened crispy flat bread filled with banana served with chocolate and lemongrass ice cream) (£6.50). The roti again could have been a little more crispy – but it was fine with its mashed banana filling. The ice cream too was excellent – the combination of chocolate and lemongrass was quite novel and we very much enjoyed this. However, the strong flavours in the ice cream did not complement the roti at all – they simply clashed and tasted quite vile together.
Unfortunately, the main theme running through all the savoury dishes at Awana seemed to be dumbed down flavours, which is a shame when generally, everything was quite pleasant. I found service a little uncomfortable too – with the waitresses thanking us after every request during ordering and laying our napkins on our laps and doing a lot of general hovering. And yes, the prices are steep; with a bottle of water, this meal would have cost us £74.48 (including service charge). With that 50% deal, it came to £39.60, what we would normally pay (or maybe even a little more) at a typical Malaysian restaurant in London. If you’re looking for a nice enough meal, Awana is alright; if you’re looking for an authentic meal, I’d recommend looking elsewhere.
85 Sloane Avenue
London SW3 3DX