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Bonda Cafe (Restaurant)

Picture of Bonda Cafe in Paddington, London

190 Sussex Gardens, Paddington, London, W2 1TU
Cuisine: Malaysian
Tel: 020 7402 5550 | Email to Bonda Cafe | Transport: Paddington | Write review

Bonda Cafe Review

Online definitions of ‘café’ reveal the etymology dates back to 1802 to the French word for coffee. Merchants and travellers exploring Turkey and Egypt are responsible for contemporary caffeine addictions, after introducing it to Venice and France in the 1600s. In the same century the first public café opened in Marseilles and now, hundreds of years down the line, I’m sitting in a café that’s seriously evolved from that original meaning - coffee is merely served as a token rather than the menu’s focal point.

Bonda Café is the Malaysian equivalent of a traditional British Caff, except that we’re chugging on white wine from plastic glasses. Forget classy coffee shop style décor and a place to saunter in with swanky friends for a drink, Bonda Café’s basic appearance is a no nonsense chow down venue: white walls decorated with photographs of dishes; wipe-top paisley patterned tables; laminated signs warning ‘hot surface’ and the occasional decorative jug or flower arrangement. This is a place to eat not to wile away the hours chatting.

The clientele are mostly of Asian descent and very family-orientated, which is hardly surprising considering the Malaysian Government own the building. As the café fills, I stare in fascination at the peculiar pink milky substance with black specks floating inside a fellow customer's glass, and think how much we stand out. The sounds of chatter and chomping fill an otherwise quiet room, as we both agree to feeling like our healthy appetites and curious nature are being critically judged by onlooking staff. Sampling more unusual dishes will just freak us out, won’t it?

The menu carries all the normal noodle and rice fare, in addition to Malay specialities, including Nasi Lemak and Laksa – some of which are only available at weekends. The selection doesn’t dazzle but helpful staff explain how ingredients in rice and noodle dishes can be substituted on request.

After a promising start with tasty spring rolls, the arrival of the salad is a let down. Having stumbled across the bizarre but moreish Gado Gado in a Surinamese restaurant in Amsterdam, its inclusion on the menu is an exciting prospect. Unfortunately, the dish lacks leafiness and is rather oily, although the peanut sauce is tasty and not to be tackled by conscientious weight-watchers. My vegetarian companion is impressed by the staff who second-guess her needs by excluding the prawn crackers. I, on the other hand, am mildly disappointed.

Billed as a special main, the Roti Canai is not what I’d expected, resembling a starter to share – two modest rounds of Malaysian flat bread accompany a tiny pot of bland chicken curry mixed with Dahl. The Mee Mamak however, is more satisfying – both in size and spicy substance.

Keen to sample the intriguing traditional puddings, after inspecting the contents of the glass-fronted specials cake counter, we order. Though scary in description, the bizarre Pulut Panggang is surprisingly tasty – a banana leaf conceals a dumpling like shell encasing fluffy hairy looking strands of beef. Stranger still, is the Sago Gulu Melaka – a pudding perfectly designed for food players. On first glance the witch’s cauldron of white liquid and bobbing frog’s spawn looks like something a 1980s children’s TV show might challenge contenders to eat. After a good stir it transforms into a treacly swamp of tooth-rotting tapioca soaked in extremely sweet caramel goodness – a messy eat, making it inappropriate for date-time consumption.

While, the ambience of Bonda Café lacks that friendly home-away-from-home feeling famously associated with the British Caff, its reasonable prices, fast service and cheap deals make it an attractive prospect. Tucked away in its basement location along a swanky wide street full of tall buildings and vegetation, Bonda Cafe is difficult to spot but the leprechaun’s palace next door is not – a huge building glowing green by night, helping to illuminate the way home.
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Customer Reviews for Bonda Cafe

Average (based on 1 votes): 1 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of Bonda Cafe.

“Some dishes were great, others weren't but it is all pretty cheap.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Roman Jones, London (8 years 2 months 17 days ago)

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Loved

"Hi guys, I come here with my friends and have very good time. I like your place very much and is very good times. I come back when I can soon. Thank you very much." Which venue is this?

Hated

"Dreadful pub, run by people who have zero idea about hospitality or running a pub. Upon arrival we sat in the back garden that only had one other table occupied , when we tried to order off the lunch menu..." Which venue is this?

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