Becky Fry takes a Malaysian cookery lesson
I’M going to have to start this review by admitting I know virtually nothing about Malaysian food. In fact the closest I’ve been to Malaysia is a holiday resort in Egypt and, as anyone who has ever set eyes on a map will know, that isn’t very close AT ALL.
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten Malaysian food here either. One quick Google search for ‘Malaysian restaurants in Liverpool’ and the only suggestions I get back are this place and Tiger Rock. The latter is a Pan-Asian street food restaurant that doesn’t quite fit the bill, leaving me to conclude, with a good amount of certainty, that this is in fact the only dedicated Malay restaurant in the city.
I can’t honestly say I understood it, but I definitely enjoyed it, and when it comes to eating that’s probably all that matters
With that in mind, don’t expect me to wax lyrical about authenticity, about how it compares to the real deal you might find on the streets of Kuala Lumpur or even if this is good Malaysian food. I’m just here to tell you if it was good food full stop, and on the most part it definitely was.
Nasi Lemak is less of a restaurant and much more of a takeaway with a couple of tables wedged in for good measure beside the counter. There are three tables in total and you’ll have to perch yourself on the windowsill to eat at two of them but it’s still full table service, and there are plastic glasses for your drinks, and plates, cutlery, napkins and chopsticks for your food.
It may seem a bit odd at first but I reckon it’s actually pretty smart. For those of us who live outside the delivery zone it gives us a chance to try the food without having to speed home a takeaway bag in the passenger seat, blasting the heating in a futile attempt to keep it warm.
Eating in means you’ll also get the pleasure of speaking to the owners, who are happy to make helpful menu recommendations if this is your first time, or point you in the direction of the wall where there are pictures of each dish taped up with a little description for novices like myself.
Thai prawn crackers (£1.50) arrive quickly in a plastic zip-lock just as they would if you were taking out and they’re the good kind: dark in colour, crisp and full of spices. Vegetable spring rolls (£3) come fresh out of the fryer (though hopefully not the miniature one they’re served in) so they’re particularly hot and crunchy, the ideal counterpart to the spiced-up sweet and sour dip.
The star of the starters however is the salt and pepper king prawns (£7). They were exactly as described, super soft battered prawns heavy with fried garlic and chilli; but it’s a clever sprinkle of toasted coconut that changes this one from a Saturday-night favourite to something pretty special indeed.
For mains, we felt it only right to try the namesake dish of nasi lemak (£6.50). The national dish of Malaysia consists of a central mountain of coconut rice circled with a pick’n’mix of sides, sauces and textures to mix in as you choose. With a chicken leg, peanuts, cucumber, a hard-boiled egg, a fiery chilli sambal and a puddle of fried anchovies, cooked down so much they could have passed for a chutney of sticky caramelised onions, I can’t honestly say I understood it, but I definitely enjoyed it, and when it comes to eating that’s probably all that matters.
A bowl of curry laksa (£7) was a bit more recognisable. The fragrant coconut broth was delicately spiced and topped with gnarled chunks of chicken leg, prawns and fresh red chilli hiding a base of thick egg noodles, beansprouts and a myriad of veggies. Undeniably messy, as all the best kinds of food are, and ideal for slurping up obnoxiously with a spoon.
You’ll find Nasi Lemak on Lodge Lane, which is the perfect place for this little gem. An area of the city bursting with life, culture and colour centred around a road so chaotic my old driving instructor would make me drive down it with glee as a punishment for stalling. At least, thanks to those coconut prawns, I’ll have happier memories of this place next time I pass by and a decent Malaysian restaurant recommendation up my sleeve if anyone is ever to ask.
188 Lodge Lane, L8 0QW
Follow Becky @eatlvpl on Twitter
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Thai prawn crackers 8, vegetable spring rolls 8, salt and pepper prawns 9, nasi lemak 7, curry laksa 8
Helpful, homely hospitality
Not a lot, though we did go for dinner at a rather pathetic 5pm!