Walk past the Shard in London bridge, and take a right down Weston street and you’ll find the restaurant Champor-Champor.
The last time I visited this place was well over a year or so ago and I remembered it for its interesting Malay-Thai flavours and quirky interiors.
So when I had a long overdue catch up with the girls and we needed somewhere that all of us could get to (I live South, Gem is West-ish and Holly is north), a revisit to this place sounded like a good plan.
I made the mistake I did last time when I walked past the inconspicuous door. Turning back, I walked through the red curtain to find this den-like dining room.
The furniture is irregular, there are odd things hanging from the walls (Holly was rather distracted by the cow’s head that peered over our table) and you’ll catch a glimpse of all sorts of Thai and Malay inspired masks, statues, artefacts and ornate doors. The most sought-after place to sit is an elevated dining table accessed via four or five steps and enclosed by ornate carved wood. Other diners look up to the ‘prime table’ like you’ve made it if you get to sit up there. Champor Champor carries a secret supper club kind of feel
We arrived with big appetites and a need to celebrate. (Girls always find a reason to celebrate something don’t they?) so we started with a bottle of the prosecco and the waiters promptly brought over a complimentary starter of their banana bread and three spoons of a Bombay mix-style appetiser.
I didn’t try the appetiser but the banana bread was an unusually sweet yet tasty start to the meal.
We then ordered the goats cheese parcels as a little nibble to share.
I know what you’re thinking. Goats cheese isn’t very Thai-Malay. But this restaurant is quite unique in that some of its dishes veer over to an Asian-European fusion style of cooking. That’s why you’ll find dishes like chicken liver pate with prawn crackers and lamb shank braised in blue Samatra coffee, plus said goats cheese parcels.
They tasted just as you’d expect. But the red onion compote and walnut salad with lime added a welcoming zest. A pretty good way to whet the appetite for some more impressionable food to come.
It’s hard to say which was the best out of the Beef Rendang curry and the Yellow river king prawn curry. The beef could have been a tad more tender but the rendang had a gorgeous depth of flavour to it and arrived on top of a flame which kept it warm. As for the prawn curry, it earned top marks for presentation. It arrived as a giant river prawn cut into a butterfly shape in the shell, and served upon a bright turmeric-yellow colour curry.
The taste was as good as the aesthetics too. The prawn was soft and juicy, the spring onions and carrots added the necessary sweetness and crunchy texture and the curry sauce was creamy, coconut-y and with a delicate hint of heat.
The baked fresh shitake with potato edamame dumpling which Gemma ordered didn’t quite produce the same level of impression. It was served with Szechuan peppercorn sauce and toasted pine nuts so certainly sounded different. But I think she was a little underwhelmed by it. While my friend isn’t a vegetarian, this is one of three dishes at Champor-Champor that are suitable for non meat-eaters. So let’s hope the spicy yellow turmeric banana curry or grilled tofu and butternut squash green curry are a better hit.
The pad thai we ordered on the side was brilliant though and the overall package here is great. I wasn’t looking back at this restaurant in a rose-tinted manner.
We didn’t try dessert but if we had, I think we’d have been digging our spoons into a green tea and pistachio parfait or chocolate and chilli cheesecake.
I think the sign that this is an intriguing place is that I still want to go back after my second visit. I’m not sure whether veering off into British dishes like lamb rack and goats cheese parcels is necessary, but the food here is adventurous, the interiors are fun and mystical and the Thai-Malay flavours get a big tick of approval from me.
Have you been to Champor-Champor? If so, what did you think? Leave a comment and let me know.
Champor-Champor, 62 Weston Street, London, SE1 3QJ