Mandalay
444 Edgware Road
Paddington
Westminster W2 1EG
09/01/2011
Let me start from THE END: “Stomach ache” says Edo lying on the sofa drinking milk of magnesia. “Not surprised” replies Monica happily drinking a glass of red wine.

You can tell me the reviews are great, the restaurant is on the Zagat or whatever food guide; I don’t care. “Delightful owners” “Food here is absolutely delicious” “A gem” “The atmosphere is warm and friendly”…PLEASE, DON’T ME MAKE LAUGH!!!
Yes, it was full and yes, all the tables were reserved, but I can’t help wondering why. I walked in with very poor expectations and they were all met! A confusing and boring combination of Chinese, Thai and Indian food or – in other words – sweet and sour, sweet and sour, sweet and sour and garlic. Plastic chairs, plastic and sticky tablecloths, fairy lights on the window and gigantic cooling fans scattered around. Nothing more than a take-away place with frowning owners walking among tables. I refused to order and I was determined not to try ANYTHING. Edo took control and had the followings dishes of which I only tried a micro-bite and the comment is:

SHRIMP & BEAN SPROUT FRITTERS: super duper oily, the shape was interesting though! Had one, single bean sprout. Solidified oil.

RAW PAPAYA & CUCUMBER SALAD: hoping for a refreshing taste. WRONG!!! Julienned, unrecognizable vegetables in a mayo-looking, garlic & coriander-flavoured sauce. Had a forkful. Hard to dig in for a second one…

COCONUT RICE: sweet yet garlicky. But hungry so had one and a half spoonfuls!

BAMBOO SHOOTS & MUSHROOMS: that was a surprise! Brownish, malodorous slush. Had a slice of a mushroom. Tasted exactly the way it smelled. Edo, who in the meantime was scooping up everything as if he hadn’t been fed for a decade, said he REALLY didn’t like it. Must have been truly disgusting then…

LAMB IN TAMARIND: looked like Pedigree, but trying to be brave I dipped a fork rib in the sauce and tasted. What a mistake. EDO thought it was delicious. I clearly married an omnivore!

CHILLI KING PRAWNS: they were definitely king prawns, which is comforting. And tasted like Thai Square’s pan-fried prawns, which is boring.

I drank water, Edo had beer. We paid £32 in total.
I kept saying I couldn’t wait to leave; Edo kept saying Mandalay is exactly one of those Lonely Planet places: trusty, simple, cheap and good.

Edo doesn’t like Lonely Planet. Edo doesn’t like Indian-ish dishes. Edo is not attracted by cheap food. What happened to him?

Important piece of information: we have been – and still are – sneezing and coughing like an old car for weeks. While I seem to have retained my senses, Edo has become a different person. Dear illness, I WANT MY HUSBAND BACK! The mission could be put at serious risk if Edo stays this way!!!

  • Food: 1
  • Ambience: 1
  • Service: 1
  • Value: 1.5
  • Overall: 1.12
Monica
I was not looking forward to going to another Indian clone but this one had great reviews, even awards as a great cheap restaurant, so I somehow embraced the adventure. It is the only Burmese in London.

It’s in a row of little cheap restaurants in the part of Westminster that is not quite St John’s Wood but is already far enough from the ultra-Lebanese section of Edgware Road. In other words, a no man’s land. I’ll call it Paddington because it’s in W2.

The place looks dreadful: worn and torn, no atmosphere, all sticky plastic and little fairy lights, depressing to the nth degree. It’s the kind of cheap eatery you are directed to by the Lonely Planet guide when you are in some godforsaken country age 20: the kind I’d have got to the door of then turned around to go the nearest Sheraton for lunch.

Anyway, we entered because we care about the mission. The place was fully booked and the clientele was white middle class with a Guardianist feel. Clearly it is a restaurant with a reputation. The staff were kind and subdued, I can’t say anything bad or good about the service.

Food:

Shrimp & bean sprout fritters: I loved them. They were gently spiced, well fried, tasted nicely balanced between the fish and the vegetables. I could not stop eating them.

Raw papaya & cucumber salad. It was fresh but could have been kept simpler. It was in fact cucumber, papaya, onion, garlic, spices, vinaigrette, and the original flavours were a bit lost. A classic South Asian mistake: kill good ingredients by over-garnishing, over-doing, and overdressing them.

Coconut rice: just coconut rice.

Bamboo shoots & mushrooms. This was bad: it smelled bad and tasted bad, almost foul. Don’t know what was wrong with it nor if it was supposed to be like that, but I barely had a bite.

Lamb in tamarind. This was the star of the meal, very good. The lamb was chopped in little pieces, it was tasty, soft and juicy. The sauce was spicy but lacking those Indian spices I find unpleasant and with all the ones I like. I truly loved this dish.

Chilli king prawns. They were not hot enough for something that calls itself chilli king prawns, the sauce was good but the prawn tasted ever so slightly fishy, which is a very bad thing.

So, all in all there were a couple of good dishes I thoroughly enjoyed, one I really disliked and three so and so. Not my idea of a Friday night but like I said, we care about the mission.

We spent £32 with a beer and a bottle of water. I would have been much happier to spend more for a better meal. For the record I was unwell later, a bit of stomach ache, nothing serious. All in all I do not recommend the place; it’s an excruciatingly depressing restaurant with some good dishes but fundamentally mediocre food.

  • Food: 2
  • Ambience: 1
  • Service: 2
  • Value: 2
  • Overall: 1.75
Edo
BURMA