Gourmet Garden, NW4 3AX

Malaysian restaurant in Hendon. Its Chinese name is 膳園 (shàn yuán), which pretty much means the same thing as its English name.

It may not look like much from the outside, but inside the tables are laid with white linen tablecloths and proper linen napkins. The menu offers proper Singaporean, Malaysian, and Chinese-Malaysian food as well as a handful of things that would be familiar to those expecting the usual Anglicised Chinese food.

Kake, Sung, and Les visited on a Thursday evening in September 2010. We'd booked, but probably hadn't needed to, since although there were a fair few other customers, there were free tables throughout our visit.

Malaysian pickles (阿榨/achar; £3.80) photo were a little too sweet for our tastes. Crispy pastry cups with vegetables and prawns (香脆金杯/kweh pi tee; £4.30) photo were nicely done; the pastry cups were very crisp and entirely non-greasy, and the prawns were fresh and not overcooked. Our favourite of the starters, though, was the minced pork and prawns wrapped in beancurd skin (潮州五香/Teochew ngoh hiang; £4.30) photo; great texture, and nicely flavoured with five spice (五香).

To follow this, we splashed out on a whole fried crab with sambal belachan (馬來棧焗蟹; around £20) photo. This was probably the best dish of the evening; the crab was cooked just right, and the sauce was intensely rich and savoury. We were told that this dish was a creation of their chef, and hence unique to the restaurant. It was certainly worth the price.

Finally, we shared a number of main courses. Singapore laksa (叻沙; £6) photo wasn't bad, but had too high a proportion of noodles and wasn't spicy enough for Les's taste. Kake rather liked the Hainanese chicken (海南雞; £5.80) photo, but this was the first time I'd had it, and Sung and Les explained that it should really have been even more tender, so I look forward to finding superior versions elsewhere. Rendang beef (干咖哩牛; £6.90) could also have been more tender, according to Sung. Fried morning glory with fresh chilli and fermented beancurd (椒絲腐乳通菜; £6.50) was very good; the morning glory was cooked just right and went very well with the savoury fermented beancurd.

Service was very friendly and helpful throughout, with the owner coming over more than once to chat to us about the food.

Their website has an entirely separate vegetarian menu, including a few mock meat options as well as selections from the main menu (dishes that are available in vegetarian versions are marked on the main menu).

Kake's verdict: Would happily come back.

Accessibility: Small step up to get in. There are a few more shallow steps/ridges to get to the toilets.

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Last visited by Kake, Les, and Sung, September 2010. Opening hours taken from a business card obtained on that visit.

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OS X co-ord: 522781 OS Y co-ord: 188762 (Latitude: 51.583849 Longitude: -0.227658)
Last edited 2011-12-03 15:34:03 (version 4; diff). List all versions.