Kiasu – A Strait-up Standby in W2

Kiasu
48 Queensway
London W2 3RY
Website
Map
Note: reservations not normally necessary

Starters from £2.80-5.50, Mains from £6.80-8.50, Desserts from £2.80-4.80

Kiasu hasn’t failed me yet when I’ve gotten hungry in Bayswater/Queensway & fancied some Asian food. It is cheap, the people are friendly & the food is pretty consistently good. If you’re in the area & you get a hankering for food from the ‘Straits’, whether or snack or full meal, Kiasu is likely to satisfy your cravings

Always a good place for a Time Out

A few years ago, I saw that Time Out had handed out its Best Cheap Eats award to a mild-mannered ‘pan-Asian’ restaurant called Kiasu in Queensway. We moved to West London around the same time and, during a walk around the Bayswater area, passed by the restaurant. I said we should keep it in mind for the next time we were in the area and got hungry. Since then, we have been to Kiasu on a number of occasions and have always had pretty good food there. On our last visit, I had my camera with me and decided it would be worth doing a little review as I do think it is very good value for money.

I guess the double-edged sword of doing a review of a place you’ve been to a lot is that if the meal you are reviewing isn’t one of the better you’ve had, it’s difficult to convey the general view you have about the place which has been built up over time. This meal was good, but slightly below the quality we’ve had during other meals at Kiasu, and while I do find that the quality varies a little bit, it is always pretty good and makes for a satisfying meal.

Mrs. LF ducked the complete meal

I don’t know why, but I always tend to go for one of their ‘complete meals’, while my wife never does. On this occasion, I went for the one complete meal I hadn’t tasted before, and the picture on the menu looked quite appetizing (yes, it is one of those places that has pictures of every dish, but it’s not such a bad thing here if you are not familiar with the cuisine in the first place).

Main Course 1: Nasi Goreng Istimewa (Complete Meal)

My Nasi Goreng Istimewa consisted of four parts. The central tower was made up of Malay-style spicy fried rice, and was crowned with a sunny-side up egg. The rice itself was cooked to a good texture and had adequate spice. It wasn’t all that interesting on its own, but I suppose it is intended to be eaten in tandem with some of the other parts of the dish. The chicken satay skewers were simply excellent. I don’t think I’ve had better in a London restaurant, even at much pricier establishments. The sweet and mildly spicy peanut flavor shone through and the chicken was moist and flavorful. All too often I find the chicken at lower-priced Indian and Asian restaurants to be dry and vapid, but at Kiasu I haven’t had that experience thus far. Possibly my favorite part of the dish was the pile of achar, or pickled mixed vegetables. They were so delicious; I wish they had put a few more on the plate! The prawn sambal was my least favorite element in the dish as the fishy flavor was overpowering and I couldn’t stomach eating more than a few bites of it. Overall, I would give the dish a 7/10 as it was very good.

Main Course 2: Thai Duck Curry & Fragrant Jasmine Rice

My wife said that her red curry sauce was tasty and spiced perfectly, but that there weren’t many pieces of duck in the dish, and that the pieces that were there were okay but not fantastic. Upon reflection, although she usually likes duck for dishes like this, she would have preferred chicken instead, but it wasn’t available on the menu anyway. The vegetables that accompanied the dish were aubergine, bamboo shoots, tomatoes and she said that, from time-to-time, she would get a piece of pineapple too, which added a lovely sweetness. The rice was very good; fluffy and fragrant. 6/10.

Dessert 1: Sago Gula Melaka

I have always enjoyed my desserts at Kiasu, and this was one of the few I hadn’t tried before. The base is made with coconut cream and then some palm sugar (the gula melaka) is added. Chilled sago pearls (similar to tapioca and extracted from palm tree stems) are layered in throughout. The palm sugar makes the dish with its rich brown sugary taste, and the pearls add interest by lending their gelatinous texture. It was good but wasn’t one of the stronger desserts I’ve had at Kiasu before. I prefer their Chendol, for example. 6/10.

Dessert 2: Pulut Hitam

Of her dessert, Mrs. LF commented: “I like the idea of trying something totally new, especially when it comes to dessert. I mean, how wrong can it possibly go, really?…So I opted for this desert because I liked the sound of “black glutinous slowly cooked rice” as it might just resemble traditional English rice pudding, which I looove! Obviously it wasn’t quite the same, and unfortunately wasn’t quite as nice either, but I enjoyed the novelty of tucking in to something sweet and unknown. It was good though (different to say the least) and tasted healthy with the coconut cream instead of milk.” 6/10.

Is Kiasu for you?

For the price, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place serving this style of food in Central London. The quality of food on offer at Kiasu has been fairly consistent throughout all of our visits and we always leave satisfied and feeling that we’ve just had a bit of a bargain, as the bill for two is usually around £20 total. The waiters are normally very polite and obliging, but tend to leave you alone unless you need them – which suits me fine in a place like this. The only thing that slightly lets the restaurant down is its somewhat harsh lighting and bright blue theme. I think it could use a bit of a makeover – nothing radical – as it has been open over three years and I don’t believe they’ve changed anything. Besides that, I don’t have many complaints and am always happy eating there.

Rating

Ambience: 5/10

Service: 6/10

Food: 6/10

Wine: they have a nice little wine list for a restaurant where probably very few people are actually going to order it. There are 5 whites and reds each, plus a rosé and two sparklers. I’ve had the Heller Chenin Blanc Organic once and it complimented the flavors of my meal very nicely.

For more about my rating scale, click here.

*Note: I have dined at Kiasu a number of times (I think four), and have always gone for lunch or midday snacking.*

Kiasu on Urbanspoon

6 thoughts on “Kiasu – A Strait-up Standby in W2

  1. Nice review. I haven’t tried much in the way of decent Malaysian food in London (and think Rasa Sayang is the only Malaysian restaurant I’ve been to here recently actually!) Good tip – thanks.

    • Many thanks. It’s worth a try if you’re hungry and nearby. Wouldn’t go out of my way just to go there. @gourmetraveller (and also @eatlikeagirl) says that Satay House near Paddington is worth a try, so I will hopefully get there soon. I really don’t know much about Malaysian food, but I do know what tastes good to me!

      Best regards,

      LF

  2. I tried Kiasu a couple of times when I used to live around Paddington but never really took to it for some reason. Nyonya used to be in Notting Hill and gave far better quality food but they’ve now become Sedap over in Old Street.

    Satay House is a personal favourite of mine for Malaysian food (http://www.pigpigscorner.com/2009/06/restaurant-review-satay-house-london.html) but its worth bearing in mind that it serves Malay style food only.

    • Thanks for your comment. I don’t know much about Malaysian food, but I think Kiasu is good, although I can understand you not loving it. Eager to try out Satay House after a host of recommendations from food bloggers.

      Best,

      LF

  3. Love Strait’s cuisine my favourite places being Rasa Sayang and Sedap. I had heard about this place before but had never given it serious thoughts, but will definitely try it now. Thanks for the review and pictures.

    • Ah, a few more to try, thanks! As you may have noted, I am a bit of a novice with regards to Straits cuisine, but certainly would like to explore it more. Glad you found the review informative. I think Kiasu is a good place, with a few dishes that are sometimes excellent, but I don’t have much to compare it to, except for a few days spent in Singapore and a few other London restaurants that weren’t that great.

      Best regards,

      LF

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