Tel: +44 (0)20 7403 4600
Address: 62 Weston Street, SE1 3QJ
Cuisine Type: Malaysian/Asian fusion
London Bridge (JUBILEE, NORTHERN)
In the grey streets behind Guy’s Hospital there’s a little splash of colour. Champor-Champor (a Malay expression that can be loosely translated as ‘mix and match’) is a tiny jewel-box of a restaurant, with décor of clashing primary colours and linen, chairs and even glasses different at every table. The walls are decorated with a dazzling array of tribal artefacts, modern art and odd bits and pieces that almost defy description. From the moment you step through the door and take in the delicate waft of incense you can tell this is not going to be an ordinary meal.
Partners Charles Tyler and Amran Hassan have created a suitably eclectic setting for the latter’s idiosyncratic style of ‘mix and match’ cooking, taking inspiration from modern Malaysian-Asian cuisine and adding ingredients and ideas from Burma, Japan, Thailand and other assorted bits of Asia. We visited just as the winter menu was coming to an end, and were transfixed by the stunning presentation of dishes featuring strange new ingredients (to us, at least) – no plain white minimalist plates here. Instead dishes of fiendish complexity come beautifully arranged on or in whatever seems most appropriate – a wooden platter, a stone bowl, a goblet…
The new spring/summer menu is now in place featuring starters such as buffalo phat phet salad (a Thai-style spicy stir-fry of buffalo with chilli, garlic and basil), Johor style ‘asam pedas’ fish soup (sour-hot, with a tamarind base, ginger flowers and polygonum leaf) and the more prosaic Chicken and coconut serunding in kaduk leaf (shredded chicken breast with chilli jam, coriander seed and coconut in fresh kaduk leaf). No, I don’t know what kaduk leaf is either, but on my experience here it’s probably delicious. Don’t miss the selection of breads, which are unlike anything I’ve tasted in this country before.
There is a fixed price dinner menu of two courses for £19.90 or three for £23.50 but for a £2 supplement you can treat yourself to an inter-course granita. Flavours from the new menu are hibiscus flower and The-o-ais, based on a popular Malaysian iced lemon tea.
Main courses follow the lead of the starters in featuring unusual ingredients (ostrich, king fish – cuttlefish with pigeon or even sting ray could be found on the winter menu) or cooking the more familiar meats such as chicken or duck in exotic new ways (tiger prawn curry tempoyak sounds fascinating, including as it does ‘pickled’ durian fruit). A vegetarian option is also available and is no less exotic.
However, make sure you leave enough room for pudding. The Golden banana cake is good, but the smoked banana ice cream that accompanies it is out of this world. It’s worth a trip to Champor-Champor just to taste it. Other puddings are similarly distinctive and beg to be tried.
The wine list is as eclectic as you would expect, focusing on interesting grapes from all over the world, and keeping the prices fairly keen. Service is discreet and friendly.
The fixed price dinner menu runs from Monday to Saturday, and lunch (Tues – Sat) features a smaller selection of dishes a la carte. Champor-Champor is a real find if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary (or if your taste buds need a wake-up call). If you don’t like the unknown, you’d do well to go elsewhere.