It’s taken us a while, but finally Jo, Charlotte and I have been able to continue with our Alphabet Adventures and for the letter B we decided to go for Burmese food. There seems to be just one Burmese restaurant in London – the Mandalay in Edgware Road, but it has quite decent reviews (mainly as a budget restaurant) and so we decided to give it a go. After all, surely Burmese cuisine is a bit like Indian, Thai, Chinese etc – and we love all of those cooking styles.
I had a bit of a power walk to get to the restaurant as Edgware Road station was closed, and when I arrived 30 minutes late (sorry girls) I found out that Jo had been at her Christmas party the night before and hadn’t finished until gone 3am. Fair play to her, I would have cancelled – obviously the call of Burmese food (and of course to spend the evening with her favourite greedy friends) was too great an opportunity to miss.
I would class the Mandalay as a cafe rather than a restaurant – it’s certainly no frills, and the service is friendly but intermittent at best. I don’t really understand why, as it wasn’t busy, but the waiters seemed quite happy to leave us sitting there with a menu and no drink (for me anyway) while we tried to catch their eyes. They couldn’t seem to believe that we were going to actually stay there for dinner, which in retrospect is a bit worrying!
The menu was split into sections for the different types of meat, rather like a Chinese restaurant. We ordered a selection of starters (fritters for Charlotte, samosas for me and spring rolls for Jo) and then each had a different lamb dish for mains – with lentils for me, tamarind for Charlotte and pickled for Jo. Charlotte had read that the lamb dishes were exceptional at the Mandalay so we decided that would be our best bet.
My egg and potato samosas were tasty with lightly spiced potato inside – very nice with the selection of dips which accompanied them. Jo’s spring rolls were also tasty but Charlotte’s mixed fritters were a bit strange: battered and deep fried courgette – okay, we’ve seen that before; beansprout – took us a while to work out that one; and cabbage – just weird. I am not sure any of us would win any prizes for healthy eating choices with those deep fried goodies!
When the main courses arrived (they took away the leftover battered cabbage!), we were presented with a trio of lamb in brown sauce. They were impossible to distinguish by look alone, and were really quite small portions with only a few cubes of lamb each. Charlotte and I shared a coconut rice and naan, and Jo had plain boiled rice with her brown sauced lamb.
Mine was distinguishable from the others because it was not hot with spice (a good thing for me because I am pathetic when it comes to spiciness). We couldn’t really tell the difference between Charlotte’s tamarind lamb and Jo’s pickled lamb – both were nose-runningly spicy and had slightly sharp taste – not unpleasant at all but I personally would not choose either of them again. The coconut rice and naan were both fabulous though.
As the portions were quite petite, we all decided we had room for pudding, which was perhaps the biggest mistake of the evening. Charlotte chose banana fritters with ice cream, Jo chose tapioca, and Charlotte encouraged me to try the faluda – it came with no description, but I decided it was my duty to try something traditionally Burmese so that I could write about it in this post. After ordering, Charlotte googled faluda and the look on her face made me wish I had chosen something different.
Charlotte’s bananas arrived first and they looked pretty normal. Jo’s tapioca was strange – milky tepid liquid with the large tapioca spheres swimming in it. My pudding was just plain odd – pink milky liquid which looked like one of those cheap milkshakes you make with the red syrup, in which floated a collection of strange and unidentifiable objects: blue lumps, bits of pasta, tapioca and ice cream. Frankly, it looked disgusting. Okay, it didn’t taste too bad: the milk was flavoured with rose water which gave it an odd perfumed taste. The tapioca was tasteless even though it looked very strange. The blue stuff turned out to be a flavourless jelly which was just completely weird, and the pasta had the texture of thick, stale noodles – I couldn’t help thinking they were leftover from several days ago and the gravy had been washed up before they were chopped up and mixed into my pudding! The lump of ice cream floating in the middle was the best bit.
I am not sure if the dessert turned my stomach, or my subsequent visit to the toilet did. The only reason I didn’t turn around and walk straight back out of the toilet was because I was desperate to go, but I advised Jo and Charlotte not to bother – there is a pub just down the road – go in there instead on your way home. This is a food blog so I won’t go into details about my toilet experience, except to say it is probably quite authentically Burmese.
Overall, the restaurant is not one any of us would return to – to summarise, our experience was deep fried followed by brown followed by milky – that combination is never going to make for an overwhelming restaurant experience. If you ever find yourself in the area, there are plenty of Lebanese places you can try instead. It’s not horrible, but I am sure you can do better.
Next stop … C is for CHRISTMAS! Okay, that’s not a country, but it’s Christmastime … mistletoe and wine … etc. We’re off to Holborn to have a traditional Christmas dinner together – looking forward to it ladies!