When we arrived at Awana at 7pm on a Saturday evening, around a third of the tables were already occupied, the guests busily tucking into their food, and by 7.15pm a further four more groups had been seated. The restaurant was clearly popular and, going by the standard of our food, deservedly so. Service was amicable and efficient and the atmosphere was pleasant, with traditional Malay music playing in the background – loud enough to be noticeable but softly enough not to intrude on conversation.
To start, I had a delectable beef satay – three generously loaded skewers of succulent beef, cooked flawlessly medium-rare, and served with a beautifully delicately spiced peanut sauce. It was extremely tasty, to the extent that I started wishing it was available as a main course…
But the main course itself was equally impressive. I chose poussin, which had been marinated with chilli, coriander, garlic & soy sauce, and roasted until perfectly tender giving an explosion of flavours in the mouth. It was served with fluffy steamed rice and a little pot of fiery chilli and tomato sauce which somehow complemented and brought out the flavours of the poussin’s marinade even more. Hiding underneath the poussin were three small sprigs of steamed tenderstem broccoli, whose slight bitterness was refreshing against the rich flavours of the poussin. Given the choice, I would have opted for a slightly higher broccoli to poussin ratio, but the overall portion size was nigh on perfect – enough to fill you up but not so much that you couldn’t fit in a dessert.
My dessert of “pisang roti canai” was a sweetened crispy flat bread filled with banana and served with chocolate and lemongrass ice cream. I would never have thought to put chocolate and lemongrass together, but the flavour combination was just incredible. I often find chocolate ice cream slightly dull, but the lemongrass gave this one an invigorating edge and really brought it to life. Unfortunately, the banana was rather overwhelmed by the sweet doughiness of the flat bread in which it was wrapped, but it was still a pleasant enough dish. I also had a bad case of food envy, as my dining companion’s dessert of “kuih bingka”, a baked tapioca and coconut cake with a caramel cream sauce, was melt-in-the-mouth and utterly divine.
If I were to single out one thing for criticism in this restaurant review, it would be the drinks menu. The wine list was surprising both in its brevity and in the choice of wines – especially the whites, of which there were only four; and where I would have expected Rieslings and Gewurztraminers to complement the spicy food, I was disappointed to find Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Returning now to Awana’s website, however, I see a much longer list including some far more interesting bottles so I wonder whether our menu was simply missing a couple of pages.
In terms of value, I confess that we had the benefit of a Groupon set meal, without which Awana might have felt a touch pricey, with starters around the £8 mark and mains coming in at an average of £17. Overall though, this was an extremely tasty meal in a pleasant setting, well worthy of three and a half Forks-up.Awana 85 Sloane Avenue Chelsea London SW3 3DX 020 7584 8880