Tom takes a fresh look around familiar territory and uncovers an overlooked Malaysian treasure.
Review: Putera Puteri
You could pass Putera Puteri, a small Malaysian restaurant on the fringes of London’s Bayswater, with barely a second glance. I’ve done it myself, hundreds of times before. Because for years, I had an office around the corner, and would spend lunchtimes in total thrall to my gut, seeking out Singaporean cafés (Kiasu, RIP), serious Thai (Tawana, RIP), and proper Penang hokkien mee (C&R, RIP). Somehow, though, I missed this gem.
And it took a recent article in the ever-excellent Vittles (subscribe at vittles.substack.com) to point me in the right direction. Towards their wa tan hor, a comforting Cantonese noodle dish of such beautiful, blessed blandness, that for a short moment, as we sit, sucking and chewing, all seems well in the world.
It’s a symphony of soft, with a joyously slithery, silken texture; slices of spongy fish ball, and prawns, and carefully scored squid, and a tangle of flat, brown noodles, all in a wobbling, egg-based sauce. You could come for this alone, but you would be mad to miss the curry puffs, three golden crescents of the flakiest, most delicate pastry, stuffed with curried chicken and potato. Or roti canai, the bread-like folded silk, charred in all the right places, and dunked into a thin, fiery sour chicken curry sauce.
The room is as brightly lit as an operating theatre, and the loo is that public place over the road. You bring your own booze and sip from plastic cups, as you munch deep-fried chicken satay made from minced flesh, like a kofta. A chunky peanut sauce is rich and heavy on the oil. I eat it by the spoonful.
There’s kangkung belacan, stir-fried morning glory tossed in soy sauce, salty as sin, throbbing with shrimp paste and chillies. And kari laksa with a broth that has deep coconut sweetness, a hint of sour, a good whack of heat and the sort of depth you can get lost in. The noodles have bounce and bite, while more fish balls and prawns jostle with beansprouts and scraps of chicken. One of the charming owners catches me slurping it from the bowl. ‘It’s OK,’ she smiles. ‘Everyone does it.’ By now, my jacket is splattered with soup, my lips slick with oil and my heart pumping with sambal-fuelled glee. I have found my happy place.
About £15 per head. Putera Puteri, 179 Queensway, London W2; puteraputeri.co.uk
DRINKS: Olly’s own-label gems
Supermarkets, take a bow. Striking the balance between offering slam-dunk crowd pleasers and riskier wines with more strident character takes guts – right now, the high street is rising to the challenge. I’d urge you to pick a less familiar bottle, which doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger spend. Instead of a Rioja, try a Spanish Garnacha. Rather than your regular peachy white, pick a Fernão Pires. Usually sip Sauv Blanc? Go for an Austrian Grüner Veltliner. You’ll find your pounds will stretch further and I reckon you’ll find a few new favourites, too.
SPECIALLY SELECTED AUSTRIAN GRÜNER VELTLINER 2020 (12.5%), £6.99, Aldi. Fresh and cutting as kite-surfing on an apple slice, this is a dazzling sofa sipper.
LOVED & FOUND FERNÃO PIRES 2021 (12.5%), £6.99, Waitrose. A peach, pineapple and pear fruit-fest of a wine. Bright brilliance from South Africa.
FOUND NERELLO CAPPUCCIO 2020 (13.5%), £7, M&S. Firm, spicy splendour without resorting to heaviness – sublime with beef.
FINEST STELLENBOSCH PINOTAGE 2020 (14%), £7.50, Tesco. Imagine a mysterious cross between Pinot Noir and Rioja. This delicious red delivers the goods!