If you’re looking to try some authentic Indonesian food in London, head to Bali Bali on Shaftesbury Avenue. It’s a hugely popular restaurant; so much so that the Indonesian President himself ordered food for 150 people to be delivered to his hotel on a recent visit.
Open since 1987, Bali Bali is something of an establishment on Shaftesbury Avenue in the heart of London’s theatreland. It’s still run by the same family. One brother, Jamal, in the kitchen; the other, Jonny, manages front of house.
I spoke to Jonny to find out what makes Bali Bali so popular.
“Indonesian food is like a mixture of Indian, Chinese and Thai. It takes the best of each. We use ingredients like chilli, coconut and lemon grass.
“I suppose our most popular dishes are the beef Daging Semur (beef cooked in Indonesian sweet soya sauce), the prawns in chilli sauce, and the sea bass in chilli sauce is popular too.
“But many people enjoy the chance to try lots of different things. I think one reason we’re so popular is you can try seven different dishes between two people for just £17.
“And we have a good lunch menu and pre-theatre menu too. It’s important to serve good food quickly when people need to get back to work, or get to the theatre on time. I’m proud to serve people good food without a long wait.
“Our regulars have been coming here for 15 years. I take that as a compliment to me and my brother. We have customers coming in from their 5-star hotels saying, ‘This is better than the food in our hotels… and we have got to pay treble for that stuff!’
“I always say, ‘Don’t be shy, try.’ If you’re after something a bit different, and you’re interested in trying different things, you’ll like our food.”
And what’s Jonny’s favourite dish?
“I eat the Ikan Tomato, sea bream in a fresh chilli sauce every day. I’m 47, but people think I’m much younger, 35 or so. That’s the Indonesian culture for you: lots of smiling, a little sport and good food. It keeps you looking young.”
Do you know where else is good to try Indonesian cooking in London? Let us know in the comments below.