Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Pick-up sticks

It’s been a little while since we’ve had a ‘compromise lunch’  - a meal, orchestrated by me, that also involves some sort of bribe in order to secure the Ewing’s participation. As if my company wasn’t quite enough.

This time, however, there was a twist. The Ewing wanted to go to Colindale to pick up her new four season sleeping bag and a new fleece for our camping trip, and promised to take me out for lunch if I came with her. How could a girl (read quickly approaching middle-age lesbian) resist?

I was excited to discover Jakarta was in the vicinity, so after we had finished arguing over folding tables and roll-up mattresses we could celebrate with Indonesian food (they also offer Thai and Malay-influenced dishes), which is still a rarity even in a multi-cultural megatropolis like London. 

I still have a big soft spot for the country, after several trips there when I was growing up (at the time my dad was a freight forwarder who worked closely with Garuda) and several of the carvings, statues and pictures in the restaurant reminded me of things we had bought back from our holidays. Although, sadly, our suitcases weren’t big enough for a giant lizard, like the one next to our table when we sat down.

To drink we both had the Thai iced tea. I'm not sure what gives it the violent orange hue (and I'm not sure I want to) but the milky sweet and fragrant drink was the perfect refresher in the dog days of a north London summer. They also gave us a basket of prawn cracker to munch on, my wife's absolute fave, as you can see in the above pic.

From the, extraordinarily good value lunch menu - £8.50/£9.50 for three courses (an extra quid if it’s the weekend) I started with chicken satay. Now, chicken satay, or any kind of satay, is one of my desert island dishes. The first time I tried it, as a small child on a family holiday to Bali, I couldn’t believe something could taste so exotic, so delicious. Even after a memorable night in my teenage years, when a then girlfriend’s dad made satay – with an excellent peanut sauce – and played us his old 60s records, until I got horribly drunk (and then horribly sick), couldn’t put me off.

My favourite kind of satay (spoken as if I actually eat it on any kind of regular basis) are the tiny little pieces of meat that must take lots of patience, and many more splinters, to thread on to the skewers, before being grilled over charcoal.

These were far chunkier, but never the less good; succulent and a bit smoky. The sauce wasn’t up to my ex's dads, but I not sure if anything will ever compare to that. Possibly because it’s perfectly preserved in my memory, possibly because of the whole jar of peanut butter and vast amounts of beer involved.

The Ewing had the prawn tom yum, (prawns hidden beneath a raft of mushrooms), one of her favourite soups. This one had the familiar lip-puckering sour edge, coupled with a huge whack of chilli heat that built until the beads of sweat appeared on her brow and tears in her eyes. The sure signs of a successful tom yum, but slightly disconcerting for the waitress who cleared our plates away.

Roast duck was served in a gargantuan portion, the soft and yielding meat draped with burnished, sticky skin that had been glazed in kecap manis, an aromatic, sweet Indonesian soy sauce. Some token shredded cabbage and carrot bought some crunchy respite.

The deep fried lamb chops in green chilli sauce didn’t have as much sauce as I hoped, but made up for it by being absolutely delicious. This was the first deep-fried version I have encountered, and hopefully not the last; the fatty, slightly gamey meat standing up to the fierce application of heat. 

What sauce there was comprised almost entirely of green chillies - along with a token bit of garlic and tomato – meaning the Ewing was more than happy to let me eat the lion’s share. Something I was more than happy to do, tempered by a glorious mound of fragrant, slightly sticky, white rice and another scoop of egg-fried rice studded with spring onion.

Pudding was a choice of tinned lychees - bobbing ominously like eyeballs, in a perfumed syrup - and that slightly chalky vanilla ice cream you used to get at a friend's houses if you went round for tea. With a good squirt of Ice Magic, if you were really lucky. Not really my bag; the Ewing, however, was sort of lucky, as I was quite happy to let her eat mine as well, despite her, weak, protestations that she was already full.

Although I didn’t get any dessert, I did manage to pick up a new fleece of my own on our trip to Go Outdoors. Nothing quite like the thrill of some new polyester. Sensible clothing and satay, a very successful Sunday.

No comments:

Post a Comment