You know how not long ago I wrote that I never try those cool places that Time Out recommends? Recently that hasn’t been true. Like this weekend, my mother came over all the way from Budapest to visit, and we decided to try a Thai restaurant that Time Out sang odes to.
Champor-Champor is a small restaurant, located very near to London Bridge. If you weren’t looking for it, you might miss it. Officially advertised as Thai/Malaysian cuisine, I thought there was just slightly more to the mix – unfortunately, not for the better.
At first, we received some nibbles, which definitely kicked off the international chaos in tastes – some Bombay mix (speaks for itself) with olive oil and balsamic (a speciality from Italy), and some warm bread, which tasted like it was flavoured with banana butter – this latter was stunningly delicious though.
I must say, the olive oil – sweet bread taste worked together, but I am not sure that this is a symbolic Thai dish. Anyone?
For starters, we tried the green papaya salad with grilled tofu, the scallops with a spicy apple sauce, and a Thai lemongrass prawn soup. I was very excited about the first element of this list, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations – although this is a bit subjective, because I am not a fan of overly sweet things.
It also took me a while to figure out that the crouton-looking bits on the side were actually tofu.
The scallops were delicious and the spices were great with it, and so was the soup – a kind of Tom Yum with flavours of lime and chilli and coconut milk, this is something I’d have any day.
While so far so good, unfortunately it was the main dishes that disappointed. We ordered the braised pork belly with sugar cane, mash potato and red onion compote; the sizzling beef sirloin; and the roasted monkfish. While delicious in taste, the pork belly had really very little to do with Thai cuisine in my opinion; it was very heavy, fatty and especially with the mash potatoes, it reminded me more of British cooking than Asian.
The sirloin looked fantastic upon arrival, but sadly did not match with taste – it lacked a serious amount of spices (even salt and pepper), and overcooked a little in the hot plate.
The monkfish was delicious though – this was cooked to perfection in texture, although I missed a bit of heat in the mix; but this dish is one I would recommend.
At this point we were completely stuffed, but we gave some desserts a try anyway – and this brought the overall score of the dinner up significantly. We ordered the chilli-chocolate cheesecake, which was spiced to perfection – all the heat I missed in the monkfish went into this slice of cake, and the mix of dark chocolate and hot chilli was perfect.
We also ordered an intriguing dessert: the Tom Yum brulée. Now, I am already a fan of creme brulée, but this custard, with perfect caramel on top, flavoured with a spice I was unable to detect, along with lime and just a hint of chilli, was so good that I wanted to get the recipe. It was light, fluffy and delicious. Don’t miss this one.
Overall, Champor-Champor is a good restaurant – nice design and intriguing-sounding dishes definitely play to its advantage. But to be perfectly honest, I doubt I will be returning. When I have Asian food, I enjoy the fact that afterwards I don’t feel bloated and heavy, but I didn’t get this after dinner here.
It’s an interesting idea, but not what I was after – although who knows, it still may be worth a visit for someone else?