Work has seen me in the Paddington area some mornings and I often find it’s lunchtime when it’s time for me to make a move back through Kensington Gardens to South Kensington. How convenient then is Bonda Cafe, situated on my way to the park! I remember eating there when the little basement space was called Nahar; I hadn’t returned since it became Bonda Cafe but Les’ blog post reminded me of its existence. Still, it was only recently, due to my work, that I was able to visit again.

If you’re not familiar with the area, you might be surprised to find that the cafe’s in the basement of Mara House, at the intersection of Sussex Gardens (a street I associate with very cheap hotels) and Spring Street, with only a simple banner indicating that there’s an eatery downstairs. The decor really isn’t much to look at – it’s a small basement room with very basic furniture and the cutlery is in a jar on the table but it’s a simple Malaysian caff with good Malaysian food (it’s all halal).

I wasn’t feeling like rice when I lunched there first and so ordered a mee goreng mamak (£6.00, if I remember correctly) from the a la carte menu. Mee goreng is fried noodles and the mamak here means the Tamil Indians in Malaysia. So, fried noodles Indian style, as found in Malaysia – a style of cooking not often encountered here. The egg noodles were delicious with lots of bits and pieces: I found egg, potato, fritters, squid, and prawns. It was a huge portion too. The perspective’s a bit funny in the photo below – the boiled egg at the back was from a hen, not a quail!

Mee Goreng Mamak

Another day, I opted for the nasi campur (£4.50 for one dish with rice and vegetables, £5.50 for two dishes with rice and vegetables, and I think £6.50 for three); all the ready-made dishes available for this quick meal are displayed on a steam table at the back of the room. There were about 6 different dishes from which to choose, from chicken to squid to vegetarian options. As I wasn’t feeling very hungry, I chose only one dish – chicken in a rich and thick coconut sauce that was absolutely luscious. I love how by default, the nasi campur always comes with stir fried vegetables on the side; there’s no guilt if you then order three very meaty dishes!

Rice and Coconut Chicken

As it turned out that I was hungrier than I expected, to go with my nasi campur, I also had a prawn fritter (80p) from the display under the heat lamps (where they display fried items) right by the steam trays. It’s not the best fritter you’ll ever encounter but it was crispy enough and tasty enough with the accompanying chilli sauce (which I suspect was Lingham’s, a favourite with many Malaysians!).

Prawn Fritter

So, a couple of ways to eat here then: nasi campur with ready-made dishes or off the a la carte menu. And both methods fed me well. Besides the steam table and the heat lamps, there’s also a refrigerated display case nearer the front with a good selection of Malaysian kuihs (cakes) that I love – I need to remember to save room for these next time! I’ve yet to visit for dinner but I’m sure I’ll be dragging Blai there one night and I’m looking forward to more work that sends me to Paddington.

Bonda Cafe
190 Sussex Gardens
London W2 1PU

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