Penang! – ‘Bland Flavours from Malaysia’
Shopping at Westfield (White City) has its perks, not only with the amount of shopping that can be done but the endless list of possible places to dine once you’re all shopped out. Instead of opting for the usual casual ‘fast-food’ type places – including Pho, Chip + Fish, Tossed (etc) we decided to fore-go our next choice – Byron – and try something new.
Either I’ve never noticed it before or Penang! is new to Westfield. With its slogan boosting ‘Big Flavours from Malaysia’, I couldn’t wait to see if this was actually the case.
The atmosphere/decor was the first confusing part of the restaurant playing 80s music it seems odd to be coupled with the bright Caribbean style interior. None of this screamed Malaysian street food and if I had my eyes closed the last thing on my mind would be Malaysian (although the restaurant name plastered across the wall might be an indicator).
Next was the menu, which was a daunting task there’s a hell of a lot to choose from. If you’re new to Malaysian cuisine, the street food section of the menu with small dishes to try is the one to opt for which is what we did.
The first dish I wanted to try was the spiced paneer. Growing up around Indian food has meant I have a special place in my heart for paneer however this was an incredibly disappointing dish. The paneer was very bland and the sweet chilli jam wasn’t spicy but more of a sweet tangy flavour. I just didn’t see how the two flavours worked together as a dish.
The salt and pepper squid was a better decision. The batter had a tasty, peppery crunch which leaned slightly on the saltier side. The addition of lime juice added an extra citrus-y flavour.
The steamed bun was pleasant enough, the duck was moist and flavoursome and with the addition of the tangy hoisin sauce was a nice starter. However, I’m not entirely sure how Malaysian this dish really is.
The salmon dish (curry) was one of the dishes I was most looking forward however this dish was the worst of them all.
It was incredibly bland with no tangy or spicy taste and I have no idea who thought of adding pineapple with salmon but the two should not be mixed together. The presentation was also horrendous with bits of thick gloopy curry sticking to the vegetables and the runnier bits at the bottom. The only saviour to the meal was the salmon, which surprisingly, was cooked well.
A choice picked by the OH this was by far the best dish we tasted. Although again, the presentation makes the beef rendang completely unappetizing ,the sauce was spicy with a sweet undertone. I, unfortunately, didn’t get much of a look in. Whilst I was making my way through the starters the OH had diminished the dish along with the jasmine rice in no time at all.
Although Penang! did have some dishes that were tasty the majority of the dishes were bland, badly presented and generally overpriced. I don’t mind paying more money for food that is appetizing however as most dishes range from £6-£8, the excitement of trying ‘Malaysian’ street food soon diminishes when you actually taste the dishes.
My biggest gripe with Penang! is the way it presents itself. I’m not a fan of Wagamama’s, in fact I absolutely loathe the place, but it seems as though Penang! is trying to replicate its success and become a popular chain across London. With a paper menu, casual dining experience and quirky branding it just was all wrong. What I would have preferred (and I’m sure most other people would) is a ‘Malaysian’ street food restaurant that is homely, down-to-earth and actually serves authentic Malaysian dishes.
Afterall, you can have the most well branded restaurant in the city but if the food isn’t up to scratch you’ll never get people revisiting. I for one am glad I won’t ever have to re-visit Penang!.
- Penang!, Shepherd’s Bush