Many years ago, whilst living in London, footloose and fancy free without kids (we call those times BC, i.e. “Before Children”), the Man and I discovered this little hidden gem, surreptitiously tucked away in a wee, cobbled lane in Soho – strictly two persons walking abreast. Needless to say, having grown up with a mum (in Sydney) who cooks amazing Malaysian meals, I was super excited to find a bit of “home”. Lucky for me, the Man is also quite the fan of Malaysian food (well, a fan of food in general!). It was a tiny, cheap and cheerful spot (think plastic tables and chairs, cash only, sticky floors), with quite a beguiling name – C & R Café Restaurant. I’ve always thought C meant Café and R meant Restaurant but I also read that it might be the initials of the Manager’s aunt and uncle. I prefer the former. It just lends a little something to that simple little cafe. We were regulars, sharing meals with cash-strapped and homesick Malaysian and Singaporean students.
Fast forward 10 years later (and our move back to the UK after seven years in Singapore)… it is still there! There is now a fancy menu taped to its doors and a sign saying “Queue this way”… yes, there are queues. Best to visit outside peak hours if you can plan ahead. It is still cheap and cheerful, though a bit more spruced up. And they accept credit cards! Of our 10 years away from London, we lived 7 of those in Singapore and that’s the place and cuisine our girls (11 & 9) are familiar with. Six months after moving back to the UK, every dim-sum, ramen and Asian restaurant we’ve tried has not met with their “refined” Asian palates. So with the whining ones in tow, craving for chicken rice and roti prata, we popped into the C & R for lunch. So many familiar and delicious dishes on the menu – nasi lemak, rendang, kway teow, laksa, even chendol and ice-kachang – it was not easy selecting something.
Note aside, has anyone noticed that nearly every Chinese restaurant/take-away OUTSIDE of Singapore offers up “Singapore noodles” on its menu yet it can’t be found in Singapore? C & R offers authentic sounding Singapore noodles – I’ve had it, and it is good! Spicy good.
We ordered chicken rice (of course), nasi lemak (yep), char kway teow (duh) and roti canai (roti prata, hello) to share. The chicken rice was declared by the girls as “the best since leaving Singapore” – translated as, not as good as Singapore’s chicken rice, but it will suffice. It needed the ginger and spring onion side dish to complete it, but since it’s not something the girls eat, they were pretty happy, though they did query about the missing sticky black sauce, which was de rigeour with their chicken rice. The nasi lemak, which I think is the winner here, arrived complete with chicken curry (I prefer that to deep fried chicken wings you get in Singapore). It was also served with glistening, roasted, salty peanuts, a very authentic molehill of ikan billis, a slop of sambal, pickled vegetables and a generous mound of coconut rice. Bliss. The Man’s char kway teow did lack a little something… I think it might have been the fat and smokiness one gets at the Hawker centres, but hey, we weren’t in Singapore anymore so I still gobbled it up. The roti canai… ok, having just holidayed in Sydney where we consumed tonnes at Mamak (a chain of roti restaurants in Sydney), this was pretty ordinary. I’d say on par with the frozen variety one gets at the supermarket. But again, it was inhaled.
Just as it was 10 years ago, C & R will be a regular haunt for us with its tastebud satisfying nasi lemak, chicken rice and roti canai with a side of delicious chicken curry gravy.
C & R Cafe Restaurant
4-5 Rupert Court London W1D 6DY
Tel: 020 7434 1128 (but they don’t accept bookings!)