Thursday, 24 June 2010

Kiasu review - London Bayswater's Singaporean and Malaysian restaurant, good food let down by indifferent service

Address: 48 Queensway,
London W2 3RY
Tel: 020 7727 8810
Nearest Tube station: Bayswater

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: 10%
Taste: ****
Service: *
Ambience: **
You will be surprised at how many searches for “Kiasu” there are in the London Chow’s search box on the right. Frankly, I myself am surprised at how long it took me to do a proper write up about Kiasu, the default Singaporean restaurant in London’s Bayswater or some say London itself.

Ironically, the owner of Kiasu hails from Malaysia and is also running Kam Tong, the Cantonese restaurant opposite it along Queensway. I only found that out after confirming with a waiter when I saw a staff from Kiasu walked across the road with an empty bucket and return with it filled with rice. That’s definitely much more efficient than boiling a fresh pot all over again.


To be honest, I am never enthusiastic about Kiasu’s service. Its staff are at best indifferent. This seems to be a common characteristic of a good many Singaporean or Malaysian restaurants in London (Rasa Sayang is one classic example). Yet people are willing to return to them repeatedly because the food served reminded them so much of the hawker fare back home halfway across the world. It’s unfortunate that they have to suffer the same service offered by the hawkers back home as well.


Staff service attitude aside, Kiasu’s food is really quite good. The char kuay teow (£6.90) is easily one of the better ones that I have tasted in London. Unlike Sedap’s drier version, Kiasu’s char kuay teow is certainly more oily and it comes with lap cheong (Chinese sausages), fresh prawns and, wait for it, fresh fried lard. Yes, gloriously sinful lard. I remember it used to be the norm for lard to be served with char kuay teow back home when I was a kid. As customers become more health conscious, lard and half-cooked clams gave way to pak choi and beansproats. The pieces of fried lard in Kiasu’s char kuay teow reminded me of that burly guy (always with his shirt half buttoned) sweating over his huge frying pan tossing char kuay teow at the Queenstown hawker centre when I was a kid.


Wife wasn’t as keen about Kiasu’s nonya laksa (£6.80). I took a sip of the laksa gravy and agreed that it didn’t have the depth that prima taste prepacked had.


Or luak (£5.50) or oyster omelette was advertised as being prepared the ‘Singaporean way’. How could I resist that? The irony is that we don’t quite like the way it is supposed to be prepared – the original Taiwanese way, if you prefer. For those who do, the one served at Leong’s Legends quite similar to Taipei’s Shi Ling market.

The Singaporean way of preparing or luak is quite different from how the Taiwanese people like it. Unlike the wetter (I prefer to call it slimy) version, the one that I am more accustomed to is drier and reminded me of the chai tou kuey (or fried carrot cake) with starch and oysters. Kiasu’s or luak was done just the way I liked it. If only it comes with chilli paste and squeezed lime like my favourite stall in Alexandra market back home.


Surprisingly, the highlight of the dinner was the dessert – a simple scoop of homemade durian ice-cream (£1/ scoop). Jost a Mon’s Feanor sent me a message earlier telling me that it tasted heavenly and I was sceptical and for good reasons too. Not because of his taste, which I absolutely trust, but because of the many London restaurants serving up scoops of run of the mill ice-cream as desserts and charging customers a premium for that.

Truth to be told, Wife and I decided to drop by Kiasu for its durian ice-cream after Feanor’s tip off. We weren’t at all disappointed to put it mildly. We could definitely taste the durian paste in the ice-cream and I could almost imagine one tearing the soft flesh off the durian seeds when preparing the ice-cream. I’ve tasted many so called durian ice-cream pumped up with essence but Kiasu’s homemade durian ice-cream is definitely the real deal.

For Singaporeans who have been away from home for quite some time, Kiasu’s toilet might bring back some fond memories. Yes, you read that right. There’s this glass cabinet just behind the door that leads to toilets featuring memorabilia that those of us born in the 60s to 80s would familiar with. Mr. Kiasu and Gotcha! merchandise, and even a bibliography of the late minister Goh Keng Swee.

The trip down memory lane doesn’t just end there. Once you step into the toilets proper, there are old photos of Singapore in the 60s plastered all over a wall housed in cheap IKEA photo frames. Ever wonder what CK Tang Shopping Centre looks like back then? Well, head towards Kiasu (or more precisely, its toilets) to find out.

While Kiasu is probably the place to go for Singaporean and Malaysian food, I couldn’t help but think that the only reason why it wouldn’t be high on my list of recommended places to eat in London is because of the indifferent attitude of its staff.

Kiasu on Urbanspoon

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Mr Noodles said...

The last time I went to Kiasu, the service was fine, as is the service at rasa Sayang imho. That said service can vary. One thing i do agree 100% on is that the nonya laksa at kiasu is a bit tame.

C K said...

It's really the luck of the draw I guess. But Sedap's more consistent on that, if only the dishes could be served quicker. lol. Have you tried the char kuay teow at Kiasu?

Anonymous said...

Never liked Kam Tong! We prefer Gold Mine nearer to Whiteleys. Great roast duck ...yummy, yummy

C K said...

I'm biased towards Kam Tong because we were offered free soup the first time we were there when the head waiter heard that we are from Singapore. lol. Cheapskate, I know.

I've heard good things about Gold Mine but didn't have to chance to try that out yet. I'm always getting waylaid by Four Seasons...

Anonymous said...

Was planning to go last friday, but saw the restaurant owner got arrested in the morning, I cancelled my plan, read more in here..

C K said...

Was shocked when I read about that on the Evening Standard. There were some rumours about rent issues when it unexpectedly closed down for an extended period of time earlier but I didn't realise that it was due to this.

Expect this to hit Kiasu quite a bit. A pity for the food there really isn't too bad.

Anonymous said...

Kiasu and its sister restaurants were recently prosecuted by Westminster council for extreme health worries and I would advise anyone to avoid these restaurants