Zheng Chelsea offers a luxe version of the kind of dishes one gets at Malaysia Hall canteen, for 3 times the price, of course. Among the joint owners are Nazir Razak (head of CIMB Bank Malaysia, and younger brother of the controversial former Malaysian PM, Najib Razak) and Tony Fernandes (head honcho of Air Asia, Malaysia’s premier budget airlines, and close associate of both Nazir and Najib Razak). Its Malaysian political and business connections ensure a steady stream of Malaysian corporate diners at the restaurant.
The kitchen is helmed by the husband-and-wife team of Adam Abdullah and Izlinda Baharom.
Complimentary keropok (prawn and fish crackers) were served with a chili-bean sauce, as one perused the menu.
I ordered the chicken satay for starters - their rendition was pretty good: very tender, moist chunks of chicken meat marinated in a sweet, turmeric-inflected sauce before barbecuing. The skewers come with a spicy, peanut dip, and slivers of raw onion and cucumber. All very good.
The other starter I tried didn’t quite fare so well - cucur udang, shrimp-scented dough fritters usually served with a spicy-sweet chili-tomato dip. The round little dough fritters are usually served hot, freshly-fried so they’ll be on the outside, but moist on the inside. A rather simple street food, but elevated to “restaurant cuisine” here. I find the rendition here a tad bland and tasteless, even with the dip (which suspiciously resembled the one which came with the keropok at the start).
Anyway, my main objective of coming here was to suss out its Nasi Lemak, the de facto Malaysian national dish, which no self-respecting “Malaysian” restaurant can fail at, and hope to survive. The version here, priced at £14.90 (compared to £4.50 at the Malaysian Hall canteen in Queensborough Terrace) ticked all the boxes: grainy, not-too-sticky nasi lemak, faintly perfumed and flavoured with thin coconut milk - quintessentially Malay-style (unlike the richer, oilier Chinese-Malaysian version). Accompanying the rice (yes, the rice is the centrepiece in this Malaysian dish, whereas the meats are the side-dishes or accompaniments) is a chicken curry redolent of lemongrass, crispy-fried ikan bilis (salted anchovies), pan-roasted groundnuts, a hard-boiled egg, and a spicy-sweet chili sambal sauce.
Once again, I find the dish competently prepared, but with no real “wow” factor. Prices are not too bad, and I suspect a lot of Air Asia-related, Malaysian executives would make this place their regular haunt.
4 Sydney Street, Chelsea, London SW3 6PP
Tel: +4420 7352 0957
Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri 12 noon–2.30pm, 6pm–11.30pm
Sat 12 noon–11.30pm
Sunday 12 noon–10pm